News24 12 September 2019

Six people were arrested for their involvement in looting that took place at various foreign-owned shops in Witbank on Wednesday.

According to the police spokesperson Brigadier Leonard Hlathi, among those arrested is the alleged mastermind behind the attacks on the shops.

Several items were stolen from the stores and some were recovered by the police.

The incident was captured on camera and has since gone viral.

In a video shared on Twitter by civil activist, Yusuf Abramjee, looters are seen fleeing one of the stores with bicycles, speakers, and suitcases.

People appearing to be the owners of the shop are also seen fighting with one of the looters as they try to recover their merchandise.

“The police, however, moved swiftly and diffused the situation before it escalated.”

This was because of contingency plans that were put in place “as a control measure to suppress a possible outbreak of similar incidents within the province,” Hlathi said.

He said police in the town have now been given a strict mandate to conduct intensive visible patrols in all areas, prioritise and monitor the areas with a large number of foreign owned shops.

The Crime Intelligence Unit has also been roped in to gather information on possible threats, so that members on the ground can be deployed accordingly, Hlathi added. 

“There are also engagements taking place at local level between the police and representatives of the foreign owned businesses, furthermore, sector managers have also been activated to stay alert at all times.”

Mpumalanga police have urged residents not to participate “in such criminal acts but report them to the police instead”.

The suspects will appear in the Witbank Magistrate’s Court on Friday and face charges of possession of stolen property, theft as well as assault with the intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

Hlathi says the investigation into their involvement in the looting of the shops continues.

Provincial police commissioner Lieutenant General Mondli Zuma condemned the acts of criminality, warning that they will not be tolerated.

Zuma urged residents to act responsibly and to obey the law.

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