The police minister was speaking during a visit to the Nkomo Village shopping centre in Atteridgeville on Wednesday
PRETORIA – Police Minister Bheki Cele has vowed that the police will respond to elements of organised thuggery and violence and those intimidating and attacking community members and law enforcement officials protecting businesses.
Cele was speaking during a visit to the Nkomo Village shopping centre in Atteridgeville on Wednesday. The minister also visited other areas affected by violent unrest and looting.
Cele said he was conducting the visits to encourage people to be responsible and to work with law enforcement agencies in keeping the spate of looting and violence at bay.
He said he welcomed the assistance of residents, but did not encourage the formation of parallel structures.
The police minister said that what was most concerning was the issue of thuggery and criminality, which saw criminals going to malls armed and shooting at the police and whoever was trying to protect businesses.
“If you say you are hungry, you don’t have money to buy guns, you would use that money to buy bread instead, so there is thuggery that is organised and we as the police need to respond to that. We will be working with the various communities in order to find and get the organisers of these violent acts,” Cele added.
Some residents and organisations also took the opportunity to interact with the minister to detail how they had organised themselves to help protect shopping centres and businesses in the area.
One such group was the Kasi Brothers, an organisation that organised men from the community of Atteridgeville to help protect and keep their township safe amidst the unrest.
“Even though we know that some of the looters are our brothers and friends, we stood together against them from looting our stores because we’ve got families that work in this same community,” said one of the members.
Ministry spokesperson Lirandzu Themba said that aside from Nkomo Crossing, Minister Cele also visited Mams Mall, Tshwane Regional Mall and the Ford Plant in Mamelodi.
She said Cele had conducted the visit to the areas, and specifically to the plant, as intelligence had been received by the police that there was an imminent threat of attack by criminals.
Subsequent to that, police officers were deployed and continue to maintain a presence in the area, with no incidents reported to date, Themba said.
In addition, the minister also made the visits in order to assess the response by the police services on the ground and, in particular, focused on Mamelodi following the reported incidents of looting of shops at Mams Mall.
Themba said they had found that even though only seven shops had been looted, the police had managed to make at least 160 arrests in connection with that matter.
“The minister and the Justice Crime Prevention and Security Cluster have called on communities to come together and make sure that no looting takes place, however, we also urge communities to act within the law and be responsible in their approach.
“We urge communities to work together with the police to avert the large-scale looting as witnessed in Soweto, East Rand and KwaZulu-Natal.”