Pretoria – The unrest seen on the streets of Pretoria and its surrounding townships has been brought under control, with over 100 people being arrested, Acting Police Commissioner Lieutenant General Khomotso Phahlane said on Friday.
“The situation may be exaggerated by some for their own gain. At this stage, the situation remains under control,” he told media at a briefing in Pretoria.
Violence had erupted in the Pretoria CBD and on the streets of Atteridgeville earlier this morning.
A group calling themselves the Mamelodi Concerned Residents had obtained permission from the City of Tshwane to march. The march commenced in Marabastad at the Hallmark Building.
Phahlane said the march, despite reports that it was an anti-immigrant march, was not solely against illegal immigrants.
“The march was not solely on the so-called immigrants. The march was, amongst others, about people that are involved in crime. There were issues raised regarding criminality, issues related to grants, prostitution and the carrying of weapons,” Phahlane said.
He, however, noted with concern that despite pleas from government, random acts of violence, damaged property and looting has been reported during the course of the morning.
“Although the group from Mamelodi protested peacefully from this morning, a group of people from Atteridgeville blockaded roads, burned tyres and threw stones,” Phahlane said.
This group without authority also marched to the Pretoria CBD and were dispersed after there was confrontation with another group apparently consisting of non-South Africans.
Today’s march follows violence and looting over the past week.
Phahlane said law enforcement acted speedily and arrested 136 people over the past 24 hours. However, the Police Commissioner could not confirm how many of those arrested were South African citizens and how many were foreign nationals.
“They were arrested in connection with violent crimes, including looting that took place in Pretoria West and Atteridgeville. We would like to thank all law enforcement officials deployed today and over the week for maintaining peace,” he said.
Phahlane said police officials had maintained restraint at all times.
Like President Jacob Zuma, the South African Police Service (SAPS) has also called for calm and tolerance among communities.
Phahlane said police will act within the confines of the law to bring those who are inciting violence to book.
He cautioned against the distribution of fake news and messages, including the circulation of videos on social media.
Phahlane called on affected communities in Pretoria to work with the police to restore normality.
Responding to a question on why the march was not stopped by the police, Phahlane said: “It is not in the powers of SAPS to stop a march that has been approved. Some elements were there with the intention of committing crime.”