Violence escalates in Soweto as night falls

Police have opened fire on crowds in Soweto with rubber bullets yet again.

A group of looters break into a foreign-owned store in White City, Soweto on 22 January 2014. Picture: Gia Nicolaides/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Police have opened fire on crowds in Soweto with rubber bullets yet again as violent clashes and looting continue in several parts of the township.

Police have been escorting frightened foreign shop owners out of the township while parents are calling on their children to leave the violent confrontations with police.

Two people have been killed and 68 others arrested following widespread looting and protests.

Police have been on the ground since violence broke out on Monday when a 14-year-old teenager was shot and killed after being accused of robbing a shop.

Widespread looting has been reported in at least five main areas of Soweto with school children joining in and police using rubber bullets to disperse crowds.

An Eyewitness News reporter was rushed to hospital this afternoon after being struck on the head with a rock during violent clashes between residents, police and foreign shop owners in Meadowlands.

Earlier, a woman in Rockville was also injured when she was run over by a speeding car, apparently driven by angry looters.

Reports say over 80 people have been arrested.

A local man says he doesn't understand why his shop has been destroyed by young looters.

"The shop is mine, it's not a Somali shop it's my shop. They are just destroying any business they come across."

Another shop owner said the looters are brazen.

"They had guns. One of them was holding it saying, 'move, move, move' and started running inside of the Pakistani's house."

He had to be restrained by police after he attempted to attack one of four youngsters who allegedly destroyed his shop.

At the same time, parents say they are trying desperately to keep their children at home and away from the violent clashes.

Parents say what they are seeing today is painful to witness.

Meanwhile, young locals say this will be the day that foreign nationals leave Soweto for good.

Soweto residents say they're under attack by a group of teenagers who are taking revenge on foreign shop owners and they fear the violence will continue into the night.

The Gauteng government has downplayed the current violence in Soweto, slamming the notion that the attacks are xenophobic and labelling them "pure criminal behaviour".

MEC for Community safety Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane has said there is no need for panic because government has the situation under control.

While both police and government insists the violence is not xenophobic, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) says it's very concerned the violence that erupted in 2008 will begin again.

The commission's Kayum Ahmed has urged to South Africans to remember that foreigners are very important to the economy.

"Our message to South Africans is that foreign nationals are an important part to our society, they contribute to our economy, they are absolutely essential to the development of this country."

The commission has appealed for calm.