School children in Katlehong. Photo: Gauteng Department of Education.

Johannesburg - Gauteng police on Wednesday warned against a fake news campaign on social media claiming school children were being kidnapped by foreign nationals in retaliation against xenophobic attacks that have plagued the province in recent days.

Earlier, various posts emerged on social media urging Katlehong parents to remove their children from schools in the area as Somalians were "kidnapping" South African schoolkids and burning the buildings as "payback". 

In videos shared on Twitter, panicked parents can be seen collecting their children from schools as a precaution. 

Gauteng Education and Youth Development MEC Panyaza has since taken to social media to deny that any schools were burnt and call for an end to the spreading of fake news. This was also confirmed by the department.

This was echoed by Gauteng police, who expressed concern at the sharing of fake news.

"Today’s false information on social media relating to schools that are burning and the kidnapping of school children in Katlehong is geared at fuelling violence and instilling fear among Gauteng communities. 

"The abuse of social media has since the flare-up of the recent incidents of violence and looting of businesses in some parts of Gauteng, been condemned in the strongest terms as it seeks to undermine the authority of the state.

"While police will look at the origin of some of these fake news to curb the irresponsible distribution, social media users are also urged to refrain from circulating such news and should rather find ways of verifying, like enquiring on the SAPS social media platforms."

The police also confirmed there has been a significant decline in looting and public violence in various cities across the province. 

Gauteng has been a hotbed of unrest in recent weeks as residents went on a rampage in areas such as Jeppestown, Malvern, Turffontein, Germiston, Tembisa, Alexandra and Marabastad.

The violence started in Pretoria last week, following an apparent shooting of a taxi driver by a drug dealer. 

Several shops were looted and burnt, leaving a trail of destruction in South Africa's volatile capital city. 

The violence and looting soon spread to Johannesburg where more foreign-owned shops were looted and then later on Ekurhuleni. 

Police have since confirmed that 289 people have been arrested since Sunday and that there's been a significant decrease in incidents.  

"Last night in Ekurhuleni a total of 100 people were arrested when police responded to several incidents of public violence and looting. 

"Fifty-four of these suspects were surrounded by the police in Tokoza and Katlehong whilst they were inside two businesses stealing furniture and groceries. Others were arrested for public violence in Buhle Park, Germiston and Elsburg for public violence."

The Gauteng police commissioner has also increased re-reinforcement to deal with any situations that may occur. 

"Police are and will remain on high alert for as long as is necessary, to restore order in the province.

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