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Heavy police presence brings overnight calm to Soweto

There were no serious reports of overnight violence after a high number of police officers were deployed.

An angry Soweto resident is being restrained by police after attempting to hack a man with a sharp object on 22 January 2015. Picture: EWN

JOHANNESBURG - There were no serious reports of overnight clashes or looting after a very high number of police officers were deployed to Soweto and other townships around Gauteng.

The deployment came after police confirmed that looting of foreign-owned shops was also taking place in Sharpeville in the south and Kagiso in the west.

Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko called on those involved in criminal activity to stop immediately and respect the law.

There's been widespread looting of foreign-owned shops in the area since Monday after a 14-year-old teenager who shot and killed in Doornkop.

Two people, including the youth, have been killed and 80 others arrested.

It is alleged that the teen robbed a foreign-owned shop, but was shot and killed by its owner.

The Somali man has since been arrested for the shooting and his case has been postponed.

Yesterday, violent clashes broke out in several parts of Soweto with police firing rubber bullets trying to control the crowd.

Foreign-owned shops have been vandalised and looted by large crowds of people while police struggled to instil law and order.

Nhleko says the police will take the necessary strong action to bring the violence to an end.

"We're quite disturbed by these particular activities and we're currently observing a number of these activities as and when they happen. We're calling on our people to observe and respect the law."

Gauteng Community Safety MEC Sizakele Nkosi-Malubane has condemned the violence, but said all criminals would be dealt with.

At the same time, the MEC said eight foreigners were found in possession of illegal firearms.

"We have also found ourselves in a situation where we found shop owners using illegal firearms to attack those that are looting."

She also confirmed that a police officer is now facing a disciplinary hearing after a video showing him participating in the looting went viral.

VIOLENCE WIDESPREAD

Gauteng Police Commissioner Lesetja Mothiba says he wants looting in Soweto to completely stop and has vowed to take action against any police officer involved in the crimes.

Provincial police management held a briefing at Moroka Police Station yesterday evening which resulted in more officers being sent to the township.

Mothiba said intelligence officials held a meeting late last night to discuss their plan of action for the whole of Gauteng.

He said troops would be sent out to cover all parts of Soweto as looting was being reported all over the township.

There's also been strong political reaction.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) says there needs to be collaboration between communities and entrepreneurs.

As strong political reaction continues to pour in, the DA's's parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane says such violence is absolutely unacceptable.

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF's) Mandisa Mashego says a social solution is needed to deal with these attacks.

"We actually want to encourage residents of Soweto to discourage this kind of action. We condemn it in the strongest possible way."

FOREIGNERS LEAVE SOWETO

Officers have since yesterday been escorting frightened foreign shop owners out of Soweto while parents are calling on their children to stay at home.

A shop owner who spoke to Eyewitness News said he was at a loss for words after watching his shop being packed up so that he could leave the area.

"A lot of people are coming and breaking up my shop. I don't know what to do. I am just standing like this."

As light rain fell in Soweto, community members said they would not leave until there was no trace of the foreign-owned business.

Meanwhile, building owners said their own income was being threatened as they depended on the rental income from the shop owners.

One resident said he witnessed a group of school children trying to loot a shop in Meadowlands.

"I saw a group of people and school kids, they were wanting to break down the shop."

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

Rubber bullets have been fired on several occasions today with officers trying to disperse large crowds.

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

The violence has been described as pure criminality by Mothiba and not xenophobia.

To view a timeline of the Soweto attacks, click here.