Johannesburg - A huge police raid for counterfeit goods in downtown Johannesburg on Wednesday uncovered an arms cache that included AK47 and other assault rifles.
The raid came after last week’s failed attempt to tackle brazen counterfeit vendors. Members of the Johannesburg Metro Police were seen withdrawing in haste under a hail of stones. They ran into their armoured vehicle and left the scene.
Videos of the police running away from vendors - many of them foreign nationals - caused a massive outcry from the public and various political parties.
However, on Wednesday morning, armed police in their numbers surrounded several parts of the city centre, where they searched for and seized counterfeit goods from buildings.
Some of the shops were locked but police broke down the doors and removed counterfeit goods. In one shop they found seven weapons and ammunition.
Police Minister Bheki Cele, who inspected the areas where police were raiding, said the owner of the guns claimed to own a legitimate security firm. Cele said the weapons have been taken for ballistic tests.
Earlier, hundreds of armed police officers in bulletproof vests had been deployed along Von Weilligh and Rahima Moosa streets. Many other parts of the central business district such as Small Street were closed off.
In a building called Medical One on Rahima Moosa Street, boxes and tons of clothes, bags, shoes and guns were found stored in three floors.
Police have officially declared the CBD a crime scene and Lieutenant-General Elias Mawela, Gauteng's Police Commissioner, said: "Thus far we think, the operation is a success. For now, the area is a crime scene so we are going to block it off until we have processed it accordingly and when we’re done then we can open up.”
He added that the firearms would be taken for ballistic tests to establish if they were used in any crimes.
Gauteng MEC for Economic Development, Agriculture and Environment, Kgosientsho Ramokgopa said he noted the media reports and social comments following the attack on police officers by foreign nationals after a raid in Johannesburg meant to focus on counterfeit goods turned violent.
“Whilst we understand the outrage by civil society on what may seem as bullying of foreign nationals, this incident brings to the fore the need for an honest conversation on the negative effects of counterfeit goods on the economy."
Police also made arrests of people who could not produce any identity documents.
African News Agency (ANA)