File picture: Skyler Reid.

JOHANNESBURG - The City of Joburg on Friday condemned the attack on police officers who were conducting their duties in the inner city, saying that its department of public safety has a zero tolerance approach to this kind of behaviour and will be stepping up Operation Buya Mthetho to deal with the crime and grime in the Joburg CBD.

Thousands of shopkeepers on Jeppe Street in downtown Joburg attacked law-enforcement officers who were conducting a joint Operation Buya Mthetho focusing on illicit goods on Thursday afternoon.

Law enforcement agencies including the SA Police Service (SAPS), Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD), Gauteng Traffic Police, Border Police and other role players took part in this particular joint operation focusing on the prosecution of illicit and counterfeit goods such as shoes, jeans, takkies, watches, belts and handbags.

As the joint operation was about to begin, a mob from the multi-storey buildings where the illicit and counterfeit goods are suspected to be stored and sold got wind and began to gather in a bid to prevent the joint law enforcement operation. The situation quickly escalated when over about 1,000 people gathered to attack the police by pelting stones and bricks. 

Police had to retaliate to the violence including firing of rubber bullets. One Gauteng Traffic Police officer was injured in the attack. It was reported that many of the residents and employees in the inner-city feared for their safety when the violence erupted. Cellphone video footage of the incident was trending on social media on Thursday.

Public Safety member of the mayoral committee (MMC) Michael Sun said nothing will stop the City from restoring law and order in Joburg.

“We are shocked at the attitude of the unruly group of traders and occupiers of these buildings thinking that they can run amok in the City and there will be no consequences for lawlessness," Sun said in a statement.

"We condemn the attack on law enforcement officials and violent tactic to prevent law being enforced in the strongest sense, nothing will stop our effort in restoring law and order in the city of Johannesburg”.

The City has since the start of this year successfully launched Operation Buya Mthetho -- Bring Back the Law -- which has since been recognised and adopted the SAPS on a national level. 

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African News Agency (ANA)