Port Elizabeth – Twenty-one people have been arrested for public violence in the northern areas of Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape police said on Thursday.
“(We are issuing) a warning to protesters that we will continue to arrest any person breaking the law,” said Mount Road cluster commander Maj-Gen Dawie Rabie.
“We also call on community leaders and civic structures to assist in resolving the grievances of the protesters,” he said.
Earlier on Thursday, police were patrolling informal settlements in the northern part of Port Elizabeth after two days of unrest.
The unrest was sparked by the murders of two men and the arrests of community leaders, said Captain Stanley Jarvis.
On Tuesday, police arrested three community leaders from Greenfields and Vastrap for the murders of two men accused of robbing a spaza shop.
After the arrests, residents blockaded roads with rocks, poles, bushes, bricks, and burning tyres, said Jarvis.
Police used rubber bullets and stun grenades to disperse the crowd.
Twelve people – five minors and seven adults – were arrested. They appeared in court on Wednesday and were released on a warning.
On Wednesday, violence flared up in Cleary Park and Timothy Valley.
Jarvis said this was a spill-over from Greenfields and Vastrap.
Ten people were arrested in Cleary Park for public violence after looting foreign-owned shops. They blockaded roads, burnt tyres and threw stones at passing vehicles.
He said on Wednesday that the crowd became “very aggressive” and police again used rubber bullets and stun grenades.
Timothy Valley residents also looted shops and barricaded roads. Police helped Somalian shop owners pack their goods and escorted them to places of safety. Jarvis said most residents had returned to their homes on Thursday.
“Here and there, there are incidents of people still thinking of looting… (but) this is being addressed by police,” he said.
A Somali man was stabbed to death in Greenfields, Port Elizabeth, on Thursday.
He was stabbed in the head, chest and abdomen, said Jarvis.
“It is alleged that a group of people went to the Somalian’s residence and there was a confrontation between them and the Somalian.”
The man was taken to hospital, where he died. The motive for the attack was not yet known and no arrests had been made.
Jarvis said the attack was not linked to the protests in the northern areas of Port Elizabeth. A case of murder and public violence had been opened.
The African National Congress and its alliance partner the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) has condemned the recent spate of violence against foreigners.
“The xenophobic violence incidents of 2008 are a lesson all of us must constantly draw from to foster unity and cohesion amongst our communities,” ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu said in a statement.
He said the police needed to be stern and to act decisively against those who were involved in acts of vandalism, intimidation and any other public disorder.
Cosatu said it was opposed to any hostility to people of a different race or nationality.
It warned that unemployment would make the situation worse.
“These economic refugees compete with the millions of unemployed South Africans for too few jobs,” it said in a statement.
“In any society, mass unemployment… creates conditions for xenophobic attacks.”
Earlier on Thursday, angry residents looted foreign-owned shops in Maokeng, Kroonstad. No arrests had been made.
Violence in Diepsloot, north of Johannesburg, started on Sunday, when Somalian Bishar Isaack, 39, allegedly shot dead two Zimbabweans outside his shop when they tried to rob him.
Gauteng police spokesman Lt-Col Lungelo Dlamini said residents later stoned and looted the shop, and looted several other shops.
In the Vaal, police received around 100 complaints of looting and vandalism of shops belonging to foreigners and South Africans, following service delivery protests in the area last week.
Scores of people were arrested for the attacks in both areas. Dlamini said Diepsloot was quiet on Thursday following the violence. Police deployed in the area would remain there until satisfied the situation had returned to normal, he said. – Sapa