Gauteng police have rubbished allegations that live ammunition was used during an altercation with shop owners in the Johannesburg CBD on Thursday.
Police and a group of shop owners in the Johannesburg CBD clashed on Thursday, when police conducted a raid on shops in Jeppe Street which were allegedly selling fake goods.
According to a statement issued by the police, the shop owners retaliated, preventing them from confiscating the goods and chasing them down the street, while throwing stones. Officers are now investigating a case of malicious damage to property after three police vehicles were vandalised during the incident.
In videos going viral on social media, the crowd can be seen shouting and throwing stones at a police Nyala which is seen trying to drive away from the scene.
It has been alleged that among the goods sold in the shop were “fake” versions of sportswear brands such as Nike, Puma and Adidas.
Following the incident, in an interview with ENCA, a shopkeeper alleged police had used live ammunition during the clash.
However, Gauteng police spokesperson Brigadier Mathapelo Peters has told News24 that “absolutely none was used”.
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She reiterated that law enforcement agencies had opted to tactically withdraw from the intelligence-driven operation targeting counterfeit goods after the crowd became violent.
“Due to the volatility of the situation, police retreated to avoid a situation where they would be forced to use live ammunition. Of priority at this point was ensuring that there was no bloodshed or death.”
Johannesburg Central Police Station spokesperson Xoli Mbele previously told News24 that rubber bullets had to be used by to disperse the crowd.
African Diaspora Forum chairperson Dr Vusumuzi Sibanda said there has been a long history of “unlawful attacks” on shop owners, who he insists have been shot at and harassed by “brand ambassadors” looking for counterfeit goods. He adds that in many cases shops have been damaged during these searches.
Sibanda told News24 that the shop keepers had already approached the authorities requesting discussions on the confiscation of their goods prior to Thursday’s altercation.
The African Diaspora Forum plans meet with government in order to address the matter, as well as to organise a march to call on police to “do their work” without disrupting the shop owners’ trade.
The Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (POPCRU) has condemned the attack on police and spoken out against comments from the ADF, calling them “reckless utterances” which suggest “victimisation”.
“We call for an engagement between policing stakeholders, government and small business representatives to convene and engage about such matters in avoiding the regrettable eventualities witnessed on Thursday,” POPCRU said in statement.
Following the incident, more than double the usual workforce and equipment were needed to clean streets that were strewn with waste by protestors.
Pikitup, the waste management entity of the City of Johannesburg, usually makes use of 10 nightshift employees, along with on one compactor truck, to clean and sweep Rahima Moosa, Risk, Nugget and Lilian Ngoyi streets.
“However, due to the amount of waste that was illegally scattered in the streets of the inner-city, Pikitup had to make adjustments to clean the affected areas. As a result, 40 employees were [deployed] to the affected areas complemented by two compactor trucks, two tipper trucks and single bobcat truck. The increased staff complement managed to remove and clear the large quantities of waste that were illegally dumped in the affected streets,” Pikitup spokesperson Muzi Mkhwanazi said in a statement released on Saturday.
Gauteng MEC for Community Safety, MEC Faith Mazibuko has said her department will return to the area alongside SAPS, the Johannesburg Metro Police, Home Affairs and SARS Customs officials, in a joint operation. She said although no law enforcement members had sustained injuries, two of the brand owners who had accompanied the officers on the operation as well as one paramedic had sustained serious injuries.
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Published at Sat, 03 Aug 2019 12:10:26 +0000