Police on high alert as xenophobic attacks spread to East Rand

CROWDS gathering in the Benoni CBD. Photograph: @MiaLindeque
CROWDS gathering in the Benoni CBD. Photograph: @MiaLindeque

POLICE in and around Kempton Park are on high alert with xenophobic attacks spreading to the East Rand.

At this stage, Kempton Park and Tembisa are still quiet, metro police spokesman, Chief Supt Wilfred Kgasago, said on Thursday morning.

Kgasago said: “So far, we have had scares and rumours in the Daveyton and Etwatwa areas. In Primrose there were reported confrontations with foreigners holing up at the police station and service stations,” Kgasago said.

Public order police asked foreign-owned shops in parts of Actonville and Wattville to close their doors on Thursday morning as a precautionary measure, said Actonville Police Station spokesman, W/O Ramothakhi Maqabe.

POLICE on high alert in Benoni. Photograph: Jacaranda News

POLICE on high alert in Benoni. Photograph: Jacaranda News

Maqabe said the decision to ask for the closure came after rumours circulated that foreigners would be attacked in the area. Police addressed around 100 people who congregated at the Actonville Hostel this morning.

Maqabe said the crowd dispersed after being told their gathering was illegal.

Hundreds of foreign nationals in the Angelo informal settlement have, in the meantime, fled their homes. According to a spokesman for Boksburg SAPS, Lt Kwendzakwakhe Ngobese, about 1 000 panic-stricken foreigners left their shacks on Wednesday evening and gathered at the side of Main Reef Road.

They were scared that South Africans would attack them while they were asleep in their shacks. They spent the night under the stars.

Others reportedly went back to their homes in the early hours of Thursday but slept on the roofs of their shacks, as they were scared that locals would set fire to the structures.

Ngobese said about 50 of the foreigners also arrived at the police station to seek protection against any attack by locals. However, according to Ngobese, there have been no incidents of violence in the informal settlement and the foreigners also acknowledged that no threats were made against them.

Although no incidents of violence were reported in Ramaphosa, Reiger Park, police said they were monitoring the area.In Benoni, police have fired rubber bullets in attempts to disperse a crowd throwing bottles and stones at journalists and police in the Benoni CBD on Thursday.

In the meantime, the South African Police Service (SAPS) has announced that joint operational centres were being activated across the country to help deal with the latest flare-up of xenophobic violence.

The police’s Solomon Makgale says the centres will be run on a 24-hour basis.

“We have also activated similar centres across the different provinces. We have also deployed additional crime intelligence operators on the ground so they can provide us with information as to what is going on at a community level.”

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