A man walks past closed shops after looting on September 2. PHOTO: Karen Sandison/African News Agency (ANA)

JOHANNESBURG - One of South Africa's oldest trade unions, UASA, on Tuesday demanded decisive action from President Cyril  Ramaphosa to contain a wave of violence targeted mainly at mostly-African foreign small business owners.

Police have arrested dozens of people in and around Johannesburg this week over the looting and burning of foreign-owned shops, the latest in xenophobic attacks that have plagued South Africa in real years. Ironically, some South African business owners have also seen their properties vandalised in the latest spate of violence.

The attacks in Johannesburg come in the wake of similar attacks in the capital Pretoria last week following the shooting of a taxi driver allegedly by a drug dealer. 

Some South Africans say they are retaliating against crime committed by foreigners and the sale of illicit goods by foreign shop owners, but police have blamed criminal opportunists for the violence.

In a statement on Tuesday, UASA spokesman Stanford Mazhindu said the violence in the Johannesburg central business district, Jeppestown and Malvern was are out of control "and it seems as if police’s hands are cut off as the violence moves from one area to the next with incidents also being reported in Booysens, Fordsburg, Pretoria and Boksburg".

"Nothing can justify these illegal and criminal actions. Instead of making use of circumstances to commit crimes, South Africans should stand together against those who take advantage of the situation to loot and burn," he said.

Violence and looting wreaked the capital Pretoria last week. FILE PHOTO: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency (ANA)

"UASA demands decisive action from the South African Police Service and government to bring the persistent unrest under control and keep all who live in South Africa safe from violent and destructive acts."

The union said the violence had set the country back by years, as it had seen the destruction of the very businesses needed to boost the economy and ultimately reduce unemployment, currency soaring at 29 percent.

"This is not how we make South Africa prosper or the economy grow," Mazhindu said. 

"It is time President Cyril Ramaphosa made a definite stand regarding the lawlessness that has pervaded our society, condemn it and make a definite plan to contain it. We implore government to take action and govern instead of talking in circles and frustrating the people of our country."

- African News Agency (ANA)