Metro police and foreign nationals on Jeppe and Delvers streets as mayor Herman Mashaba arrived at the scene where South African Police Service officers were attacked by foreigners allegedly selling counterfeit goods in the Johannesburg CBD. File photo: ANA/Nhlanhla

JOHANNESBURG - The Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) on Saturday added its voice to those condemning the mob attack on police in Johannesburg on Thursday by an alleged group of foreign national shop owners.

"Each and every country has got its laws and bylaws accordingly, and in line with the South African Constitution police are there to maintain law and order. Their role is to uphold these laws and the role of citizens, whether of local or foreign origin, is to abide by the stipulated laws," Popcru said in a statement on Saturday.

"We strongly feel that the Thursday activity was coordinated and planned to detail, partly aimed at provoking and portraying police to be brutal and incompetent.

"We commend our members for their act of withdrawing from what was a clearly volatile situation that could have led to the unfortunate loss of lives or injuries. This was a demonstration of courage and sensibility on their part.'

Popcru "categorically" cautioned the African Diaspora Forum’s (ADF) reckless utterances which sought to suggest that the prevention of criminal activity was victimisation. There was only one law for all who lived within the boundaries of the country, and this forum should "confine itself within the frameworks therein", Popcru said.

Instead of insinuating unnecessary divisions, the ADF should be at the centre of promoting obedience to the law of the host country. 

"Our members should always defend themselves when attacked, and must never allow lawlessness to take place within our communities, and this must be done within reasonable measures.

"We call for an engagement between policing stakeholders, government, and small business representatives to convene and engage about such matters in avoiding the regrettable eventualities witnessed on Thursday. We further call on our government to speed up dialogue in ensuring there are demarcated trading areas," Popcru said.

On Friday, the justice, crime prevention, and security (JCPS) cluster of ministers said government viewed the attack on police officers in the Johannesburg CBD by foreign shop owners this week as an attack on the state.

Ministers in the cluster said the attacks, which saw shop owners stone police officers and vehicles during a raid to seize counterfeit goods being sold at outlets, would not go unpunished.

"An attack on the law enforcement agencies is an attack on the state, and government views this in the most serious light. Blatant disregard for our law threatens national security and the sovereignty of our nation," a statement from the ministers said.

"South Africa as a constitutional democracy governed by laws and as such we expect everyone working and living in the country to be doing so legally and in accordance to South Africa’s laws. No person, under any circumstances, has the right to attack officials discharging their duties."

The minister's said the crackdown on the illicit economy was needed as it "results in loss in sales and profits of genuine goods and brands, and could pose health risks to ordinary consumers".

The JCPS cluster would liaise with the international relations department to engage embassies to encourage their citizens to respect South Africa's laws.

African News Agency