Pretoria - Good intentions coupled with a bad modus operandi caused the the utter chaos that erupted in Pretoria CBD late on Tuesday, spilling over to Wednesday, MMC for Roads and Transport Sheila-Lynn Senkubuge said.
The MMC worked frantically to facilitate an urgent meeting between the city and representatives of aggrieved taxi associations.
The general public and informal traders joined furious taxi operators on the streets around Bloed Street Taxi Rank demanding that police take them seriously.
The violence followed the fatal shooting of a taxi driver identified as Jabu Baloyi allegedly by a foreign national who was confronted for dealing drugs in the CBD on Tuesday afternoon.
In retaliation, the angry crowd on Wednesday set alight numerous stores suspected to be run by foreign nationals they accused of selling drugs to young people around the notorious Lilian Ngoyi and Brown streets intersection.
Protesters broke into stores before setting them ablaze in front of police awaiting back-up.
However, criminal elements took advantage of the situation and started looting, grabbing TVs, fridges and other electronic equipment. Others helped themselves to food.
Senkubuge said this was the capital city of South Africa and should not be home to violent behaviour that results in the burning of buildings.
“Taxi operators meant well to fight against the dealing of drugs and raise concerns following the killing of one of their own, but to take city buses and block the roads or burn stores is what became a problem
“Law enforcement is there to fight this crime and the Roads and Transport MEC Jacob Mamabolo and his team have been doing good work to deal with this problem the correct way.
"That is why we say we condemn vigilantism and say, bring grievances to us and let us allow law enforcement to deal with the problem.”
Despite the attack on businesses of foreign nationals, Senkubuge said this action could not be attributed to xenophobia because taxi operators were initially confronting the scourge that was drug dealings in the city.
“Of course there might be elements of xenophobia whereby foreign nationals were just targeted unfairly. That is why I say the people involved might have had good intentions, but it is their modus operandi that was the problem.”
South African National Taxi Council regional chairperson Xolly Tshabalala said: “We are not xenophobic at all; we are saying the police do not take us taxi drivers seriously.
"On Tuesday, a foreign national killed a taxi driver and they did not send these many police officers they have here today.
“That suspect will get away with the murder of a family man just as drug dealers get away with selling drugs to our youth in our cities and then cry xenophobia when we take action.
“We want the Minister of Police Bheki Cele to come here because our youth is being fed nyaope and other drugs right here on Lilian Ngoyi Street, but the police are not shutting this down.”
Zambian businessman Llyod Kalenshia said painting every foreigner with the same brush was very problematic and dangerous.
“I am hurting because my cellphone store was burnt to the ground and I am left with nothing. These people must let the police deal with these things and not take the law into their own hands.”
Meanwhile, Mamabolo and provincial SAPS commissioner Lieutenant-General Elias Mawela engaged with Tshwane as well as representatives of the taxi industry regarding the shooting incident.
"The taxi industry representatives tabled their concerns and raised what both the MEC and provincial commissioner believe are genuine concerns, which require urgent attention to ensure safety and security within the space in which they operate," they said in a joint statement.
"The SAPS and the Tshwane Metro Police Department have since intensified deployments and will maintain a presence in the CBD to ensure that no further incidents of criminality recur."
In the meantime, 10 people were arrested for possession of suspected stolen property and another 7 for public violence.