[UPDATE] 2 dead in White City as residents clash with foreign shop owners

Several foreign-owned shops have been looted, and many of the owners are now packing up and trying to safeguard the remaining stock.

A large crowd of onlookers are gathered at a shopping complex in White City, Soweto, where some of the stores have been looted. Picture: Katleho Sekhotho/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Foreign shop owners in White City are packing up what’s left of their stock after widespread looting and violence in the Soweto community that has left two people dead.

The pair was shot dead on Wednesday when crowds of people moved from one shop to the next, stealing what they could carry. It’s not yet clear who pulled the trigger, but police are on the scene investigating.

Officers are also probing a WhatsApp message that was sent to some residents warning that violence would break out on Wednesday, allegedly over expired food being sold in foreign-owned shops.

Many people who've looted stores can be seen carrying groceries back to their homes in White City on Wednesday afternoon.

Some are carrying two-litre cooldrink bottles and bags of flour.

There’s a heavy police presence as officials move from store to store, trying to restore calm.

Speaking to Eyewitness News, one of the store owners who is South African says he doesn't understand the motive to loot because many of the looters seem to be unaware he's a South African employed by Somali citizens.

The store was cleaned out by residents.

But police managed to make an arrest soon after.

At the same time, police are calling for calm in the area after the deadly violence.

Gauteng police spokesperson Colonel Lungelo Dlamini said: “There have been rumours about foreign-owned shops selling expired goods, something that’s been going on in the media. We still don’t know what sparked the violence on Wednesday morning.

"We understand that there are groups going around the area attacking foreign nationals’ shops. Some of the shop owners have sought safety at a police station.”

ANC REACTS

The African National Congress (ANC) has condemned lawlessness by citizens acting against the sale of illicit food products in stores across the country.

ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe says while the health and wellbeing of citizens remain their primary concern, people must not take the law into their own hands.

“The video material that has been making rounds on social media has understandably angered communities and some are beginning to take the law into their own hands and are conducting their own inspection, manhandling suspects and destroying what they find to have expired. We call on people not to take the law into their own hands.”

The party has called for the intervention of the Bureau of Standards and the business community to assist aggrieved communities.

(Edited by Zamangwane Shange)