The Police on Thursday said three people have been killed during looting in Johannesburg’s sprawling Soweto township.
The police also confirmed that 27 people have so far been arrested in the violence, which had a xenophobic undertone. “I can confirm that two were shot and one was stabbed,” police spokesman Lungelo Dlamini said on local television channel eNCA.
“The number of arrests has risen up to 27,” he added – two for murder and most of the others for the public violence that broke out on Wednesday.
Dlamini said some foreign nationals living in Soweto had taken refuge in a police station for fear of being targeted. It is believed that the violence was sparked by accusations that shop owners within the community had allegedly been selling counterfeit and expired goods, Johannesburg’s mayor Herman Mashaba said in a statement.
Many of the small shops selling basic goods in South Africa’s townships are owned by nationals from other African countries, including Somalis, Ethiopians, Mozambicans and Zimbabweans.
The South African government has condemned the violence. South Africa has recurrent spates of xenophobic attacks – with particularly bad examples in 2008 and 2015 – and more than 60 people have been killed in the past decade.
Mayor Mashaba has himself come under fire in the past from political opponents and rights groups for statements considered to be stoking xenophobic sentiment.