Johannesburg - The youth are the instigators behind the looting of foreign-owned shops in Soweto, Gauteng police commissioner Lt-Gen Lesetja Mothiba said on Thursday.
He said the youngsters were grouping themselves and looting stores across the township.
“We do not believe that this looting can just take place unco-ordinated,” he said at the Moroka police station on Thursday night.
“We want to bring this situation under control as soon as possible but most importantly, we need to identify the instigators.”
Earlier, store owner Obakeng watched as his neighbours looted a shop owned by a Pakistani national down the street from his yard in Meadowlands zone three.
“I saw a group of people going in one direction and coming back with bags of maize meal, some with canned foods. Some guy was carrying three bags of maize meal, he then went back for more.”
He said police arrived shortly after the looting had started.
“You could hear whistles and shouting. Then we heard police sirens from a distance. About 10 minutes later we started hearing gunshots and that is when people started sprinting down the streets and some went back into their yards.”
He said most of the looters were teenagers, some still in their school uniforms.
“It is actually more kids than adults.”
Shortly after the sounds of sirens and what sounded like gunshots, people allegedly returned to the scene and were casually observing and chatting about what had happened earlier, he said.
Lt-Gen Solomon Makgale could not confirm or deny the shooting allegations.
In another part of Meadowlands, a small crowd of people threw stones at the van of four Somali nationals who had packed up their shop following clashes between locals and foreigners.
A crowd stood around the van, which the men were loading with stock, in Heald street, Meadowlands.
Two police vans were on the scene and officers stood close to make sure the crowd did not intimidate the foreign businessmen.
A boy in school uniform shouted: “They must leave, they want to kill us.”
One of the Somali men, Shineh Farrah Abdillah, responded: “Why would I want to kill you, you are my brother”, to which the boy answered: “You are not my brother”.
The crowd became impatient and as the men finished packing their van and started the vehicle, people began throwing stones as they drove away.
Abdillah, who said he had been in South Africa since 2011, said: “The police were trying to help us but now I'm worried about myself because of these people.”
Earlier on Thursday, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was reportedly in Meadowlands to try speak to the people.
Police were on high alert in Soweto, the third day of clashes that left at least two people dead.
Several shops owned by Ethiopians, Pakistanis and Somalis were closed in Snake Park following the attacks.
Residents went on a rampage looting shops and attacking foreigners after a teenager was shot dead in Snake Park. Mthetheleli Siphiwe Mahori, 14, was shot dead, allegedly by a foreign shop owner on Monday. He was apparently part of a group that tried to rob the shop.
The violence spilled over to Braamfischerville, Dobsonville, Emdeni, Zola and Protea Glen.
The number of people arrested for looting in several areas around Soweto has risen from 68 to 121, Gauteng police said on Friday.
They faced charges ranging from murder, attempted murder, possession of suspected stolen property and fraud, said provincial police commissioner Lt-General Lesetja Mothiba, in a press briefing held at the Moroka police station in Soweto.
Police had also retrieved 11 guns, ten of which were seized from foreign nationals.