Accusations have emerged that Ekurhuleni Metro Police officers enabled looting at the Chris Hani Mall in Vosloorus and colluded with looters in other parts of the township and the Katlehong area.
Some of the looters, who spoke on condition of anonymity to SABC News, say the traffic officials who were stationed at the Chris Hani Mall on Monday afternoon, allowed them to enter and ransack the mall. In the Hlahatsi section of Katlehong, members of the community who took it upon themselves to guard the local shopping centre, have also accused the metro police of being in cahoots with looters.
“They allowed us. The police just told us we can do anything. (They told us) we can loot anything, because they are going somewhere. They didn’t tell us where they were going. They just said you can loot at the mall. They moved and we entered the mall and looted everything that was there,” say one resident.
“(They told us) Enter the mall and do whatever you want. They just moved actually,” adds another community member.
According to the two, this happened on Monday. They say they did not personally know the implicated metro officers.
“Mostly it was the metro police. They were three inside a metro police vehicle,” says one of the looters.
The other one says: “They just said just come in and loot at the mall. We are going.”
The two young men say hundreds of looters were on the scene and helped themselves to whatever they could lay their hands on.
The accusations are similar to claims made by members of the community in Hlahatsi section.
“Yesterday (Monday), we saw them (metro police officers) at around at around 1am. We saw a group of people that side (that) wanted to come this side. What happened is, we told the metro police. But immediately after we told them they dispersed. All of them. And after they dispersed, that crowd started to come to us. And then they (metro police) approached them before that crowd could disperse metro police went that side to speak to those guys and alert them that (know) this side is very difficult. But as soon as we move, you must come in. And then that’s what happened. As soon as the metro police moved those guys came in this side, but fortunately we drove them away because we are united this side.”
Spokesperson for the Ekurhuleni Metro Department, Kelebogile Thepa, has rejected the allegations.
“The Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Police Department (EMPD) hereby repudiates any assertions made against its members on granting criminals permission to have shops looted at the Chris Hani Mall. The EMPD wishes to state that although a peaceful demonstration is a constitutional right afforded to all citizens, what has been witnessed by all in our city are acts of criminality, and we as the EMPD, one of our mandates is crime prevention. Our capacity in the fight against these criminals can never be matched with their acts of looting, yet we maintain to prevent crime, ensuring stability and peace keeping efforts.”
Thepa has encouraged members of the public to come forth and report all acts of criminality, including that of police officials at any of the South African Police Service (SAPS) stations, The Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID), or The City of Ekurhuleni Anti- Fraud Hotline on 080 010 2201.
Calm has returned to Katlehong, with community members assisting in mop-up operations.
Some have taken to themselves to protect businesses that are still standing.
They speak of their struggle to find food following days of mayhem in the video below: