Johannesburg - Police retreated from attackers in the Johannesburg central business district on Thursday morning to avoid "bloodshed", they have said.
According to a joint statement issued by the offices of the Gauteng police commissioner and community safety MEC, members of various law enforcement agencies and brand owners "tactically withdrew from an intelligence-driven operation targeting counterfeit goods in the Joburg CBD".
"This came after a violent crowd of foreign nationals attacked police with objects including bricks and petrol bombs," read the statement.
Due to the volatility of events, police retreated to avoid a situation where they would be forced to use live ammunition. Of priority at this point was ensuring that there was no bloodshed or death, according to the statement.
No law enforcement members sustained injuries, while two of the brand owners and one paramedic sustained serious injuries.
"The situation is calm and police are closely monitoring the area to make sure no further violence erupts."
The provincial commissioner of police in Gauteng, lieutenant general Elias Mawela, said he condemned "the incessant undermining of the authority of the state by these foreign nationals in the Johannesburg CBD".
"Such lawlessness cannot be allowed to go unpunished," he said.
Gauteng community safety MEC, Faith Mazibuko, said she too condemned the attacks.
"We condemn all criminal elements hellbent on undermining the rule of the law in this country and making this country ungovernable. We can’t co-govern with criminals, especially foreign nationals who want to turn our country into a lawless Banana Republic," said Mazibuko.
"Working together with SAPS, JMPD, Home Affairs and SARS Customs, we will conduct a joint operation in that area. We will assert our authority and show ungovernable foreign nationals that there are laws in South Africa and they must be respected. We will also liaise with the Minister of Dirco to engage embassies to encourage their citizens to respect the laws of this country," said Mazibuko.
African News Agency/ANA