Looting sprees, violence a concern in Gauteng’s Covid-19 fight: Makhura

13 July 2021 - 15:54
By nonkululeko njilo AND Nonkululeko Njilo
Police arrested people involved in a looting spree at Jabulani Mall in Soweto on July 12 2021.
Image: SOWETAN/ANTONIO MUCHAVE Police arrested people involved in a looting spree at Jabulani Mall in Soweto on July 12 2021.

As the number of Covid-19 cases continues to surge in Gauteng, premier David Makhura has warned ongoing violence and looting sprees will have a devastating impact.  

People have been gathering in large groups to protest, vandalise property and loot businesses.  

In Soweto, at least 10 people lost their lives in a stampede while looting in Meadowlands.

“These big numbers of people who have been crowding around shops is a great concern for me. Although the peak is coming down, I am telling you we are going to have a problem in the areas where there have been groupings of people.”  

Statistics released by the Gauteng health department show there were 702,083 Covid-19 cases in the province by July 4, but this increased to 772,196 cases by July 11.

“I want to make a call to the people of Gauteng and to say to the leaders, let us go to the ground and make sure we call for calm in our communities.”   

Makhura said he was not oblivious to the socioeconomic challenges which people grappled with, but maintained criminal elements could not be justified.

“Young people who have been sitting there, the way to solve problems is not to loot. That is not a solution. Let’s make sure all of us are speaking with one voice on the need to act to stop the violence because we are losing lives.”

Community safety MEC Faith Mazibuko said the situation in Soweto had escalated with criminals breaking into and looting people’s homes.

Asked to respond about the safety of residents, Mazibuko said government could not  guarantee safety as gunshots continued to be fired beyond curfew hours. 

She said the province had intensified efforts to curb violence through the mobilisation of community patrollers.

“I wish to assure them that they must remain vigilant, but over and above that make sure they remove children from the streets. Sometimes we allow them to go play and we’re putting them at risk,” she said.

“Share information and question one another so that each time they pick up something, those community patrollers are able to pick up fast and be able to attend to the situation.”

President Cyril Ramaphosa has condemned the violence and looting in the strongest term possible terms. Addressing the nation on Monday, he said the government had a plan to return law and order. 

“This violence may indeed have its roots in the pronouncements and activities of individuals with a political purpose, and in expressions of frustration and anger,” he said.

“At the beginning of this unrest, there may have been some people who sought to agitate for violence and disorder along ethnic lines. We know the majority of our people have out of principle refused to be mobilised along these lines.”