Foreign-owned shops in Soweto were under siege on Wednesday as residents went on a looting spree in about six townships.
Townships that have been affected so far are said to be Zola, Emdeni, Moletsane, White City, Zondi and Rockville.
The assault on foreigners is reminiscent of a wave of xenophobic attacks that were unleashed in Soweto a year ago. Last year’s attacks on spaza shops left foreign traders counting losses following allegations that they were selling expired products.
Police spokesman Cpt Kay Makhubele confirmed that residents from a number of townships have been looting foreign-owned stores since Wednesday evening.
“At the moment it is not clear what started this. We are yet to determine the widescale of the looting but we have members on the ground monitoring the situation,” he said.
He said it could not be established yet whether any injuries have been reported or if any arrests have been made.
Residents in White City claimed that the looting was the community’s way of showing their anger at the attack in police officers in Johannesburg’s CBD over two weeks ago.
Police were embarrassed by foreign traders who forced them to beat a hasty retreat under a rain of stones as they attempted to force their way into some of the buildings believed to be used to store counterfeit goods.
But last week, they reclaimed control of the Johannesburg CBD through the
“Okae Molao” operation which saw seven assault rifles, three pistols and millions worth of counterfeit goods being confiscated by the police in the inner city.
Hundreds of undocumented foreign nationals were also arrested during the intensified operation.
Resident Tshepo Lehohla told Sowetan that residents felt that they were being disrespected by foreign nationals.
“How can people from out of this country attack our police officers? Police in other countries would not tolerate that. People are angry because of that,” he said.
Another resident said the looting was bound to happen.
Moeketsi Tladi said he was not surprised at what was happening in his area.
“People have been upset with what happened. It was only a matter of time,” he said.