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Zuma calls for calm after violent clashes in Pretoria CBD

Earlier on Friday police fired stun grenades, water cannons and rubber bullets to disperse citizens and non-nationals in the Pretoria CBD.

FILE: Some shops owned by foreigners were looted and roads blocked during protests in Atteridgeville.  Picture: Twitter @EWNTraffic.

PRETORIA - President Jacob Zuma has tonight called for calm after police fired stun grenades, water cannons and rubber bullets to disperse citizens and non-nationals in the Pretoria CBD.

He urged everyone to work with authorities to fight against crime, which he says is the primary cause of the tensions.

The president says he convened a meeting with ministers in the justice, crime prevention and security cluster in Cape Town and directed them to look at further ways to increase the fight against crime as communities simply cannot continue to co-exist with illegal activity.

At the same time, police officers have left a Pakistani supermarket that a large group tried to break into to search for drugs.

Despite this, the shop owners say while they fear the group may come back, they won’t leave their property and their stock, saying they would rather die in it.

A large group of people tried to break into the store claiming the owners keep drugs and weapons.

But police stopped them and searched the building, finding nothing.

Police officers who kept the large group from coming closer to the shop to confront the foreign nationals have now left.

Many of the people who were part of the group have also dispersed for now.

One Pakistani shop owner says police searched their building and found nothing.

While police officers have offered to escort them out of the area, the shop owner says they are not going anywhere.

The owners and their fellow countrymen have begun fixing and welding the gate that the group dismantled, saying this premises will be their hiding place.

The large group that tried to break into the shop reacted with anger when the officers came out saying there was nothing inside.

An officer said, “you said we must come here and search this place and we have searched this place twice… unfortunately we cannot satisfy you."

One of the protesters responded by saying, “we are not satisfied… We saw a lot of pangas in there.”

One of the Pakistani shop owners says they don’t where they will sleep tonight.

“Police are searching us to see if we have anything, they disarmed us and they removed everything. Now we are scared.”

PROTEST LEADER ARRESTED IN SUNNYSIDE

Meanwhile in Sunnyside, police arrested a protest leader on Friday evening after he ignored their instruction to disperse.

Earlier on police used stun grenades to prevent groups of locals and non-nationals from fighting.

Officers had to use rubber bullets and stun grenades while chasing the group down the street.

POLICE MONITOR STREETS OF TSHWANE

Police continue patrolling the streets of Tshwane this evening to prevent more flare-ups of violence after today's anti-immigrant march and after arresting at least 137 people in the last 24 hours.

This afternoon officers formed a barrier between protesters and non-nationals in Sunnyside using rubber bullets and stun grenades to control the situation.

Earlier acting national police commissioner Khomotso Phahlane said the situation was calm and under control.

The lieutenant general says a group from Atteridgeville caused the violence.

“Although the group from Mamelodi protested peacefully early this morning, a group of people from Atteridgeville blocked roads, burnt tyres and also threw stones. They also without authority to do so, marched at the CBD, where they were dispersed after there was a confrontation with another group – apparently consisting of non-South Africans.”

One of the demonstrators says enough is enough.

“We are ready; we can battle them and the police can even stand aside because this is our country at the end of the day. Whatever the media is reporting, they must know that on the ground, it’s a jungle and there’s really nothing for us on the ground.”

Meanwhile, Amnesty International says government’s failure to adequately investigate and prosecute perpetrators of xenophobic violence is the primary reason the violence persists.

Amnesty's Netsanet Belay says government has also failed to consistently condemn toxic rhetoric from officials and individuals in positions of authority.

The group has called on government to live up to its obligation to protect the rights of all who live in South Africa.

“Today should not be business as usual, today is for government to – with the right efficiency and lawfulness – stamp out this rhetoric and dangerous violence happening in Pretoria and around. Government will have to be held accountable for its failures if this situation escalates.”

(Edited by Winnie Theletsane)

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