Pathologists remove one of the three bodies that perished in the Jeppestown fire that led to rampant looting in the area. Picture: Timothy Bernard/AfricanNewsAgency(ANA)
Chaos erupted near Jeppestown, Joburg on Sunday morning as criminals looted local stores and stole property, following a fire that claimed the lives of three people.

Two women and a man died in a fiery blaze in a building on Karl Street, in Wolhuter, in the early hours of yesterday morning.

Police spokesperson Captain Mavela Masondo said the police received a call at around 5am about a building that was on fire.

“A preliminary investigation revealed that three people had died inside. For now we cannot confirm the cause of the fire but we have started with our investigation. We have opened an inquest,” said Masondo.

A resident of the burned building and loan shark Skhumbuzo Zulu told The Star that he lost all of his belongings in the blaze, as well as about R13500 from work.

“I’m a loan shark and I was paid R13000 by one of my clients yesterday and now the fire burned my money. I am only left with the clothes on my body,” Zulu said.

The resident said he had lived in the building for about three years.

A business owner removes his stock in the area during the looting. Picture: Timothy Bernard African News Agency (ANA)

“I kept the money there because I wanted to use some of it before I sent the rest of the money home to my mother today,” said Zulu.

At around 12pm, the bodies of the three dead people were collected by forensic pathologists. However, the area was chaotic while the police attempted to disperse people who were looting nearby shops.

Looters broke into auto repair shops where different car parts, including a car door, bumper and even an engine were stolen in Jules Street. A vehicle was also set on fire near the shop.

Masondo said the criminals used the fire as an opportunity to loot: “It was also revealed that criminals took advantage of the situation and some of the people that were here went to the shops and started looting,” said Masondo.

The spokesperson added that there were several shops looted in the area, and four suspects were arrested and charged with public violence.

A spaza shop owner in the area, Nontokozo Bakari, said she and her employees were packing their goods into a van, after looters had attempted to break into her shop using a brick.

“They had already looted from the other shops on the street and they tried here but they could not open the shop because there is a security gate,” said Bakari.

She added that the looters were going to come back and attempt to break in again when the police contacted the owner of the building who phoned her and her husband.

“We are packing now and when things have quietened down, after maybe a week, we will come back,” she said.

The police also clashed with people who threw empty glass bottles at them, while they used rubber bullets to disperse the crowds.

“There are police who are in the area. We dispatched our public order police and they are monitoring the situation, which is still tense, but we believe it is under control,” said Masondo. @Chulu_M