Yesterday, the owner of Bree Hardware had to be rushed to hospital after he sustained injuries to his head when a group of learners, still in school uniform, trashed his shop on Bree Street, Newtown.
The pupils were on their way to Luthuli House to stage a protest against violence in schools, among other grievances. The learners, members of the Congress of South African Students (Cosas), had gone to the ANC headquarters to call on the party to respond to a memorandum of demands handed to it last year. However, they left a trail of destruction on their way.
“My boss has been taken to hospital because of what those kids did. He was seriously injured on his head. They took everything and we had to close the shop,” said an employee.
The group also made a stop at Spar Tops liquor store on Ntemi Piliso Street, trashing the shop and made off with alcohol.
The store had broken glass and bottles all over the floor and on the pavement. The fridges had been emptied.
“There were over hundreds of school kids who came into the shop and they took all sorts of drinks - bottles, cans, and dumpies. By the time they were inside, we were unable to stop them,” said one of the employees, who was sweeping up broken glasses.
The owner of an electronics shop in Newtown, who identified himself only as SK Adil, said the crowd managed to enter the premises before he could close.
“They took about 30 phones which were supposed to be repaired. They also took portable speakers, chargers and pretty much anything they could get their hands on.
“They also beat up one of my older workers and took her phone. We just ran to the back to hide for our safety. It was terrifying. I don’t know how I’m going to replace the lost phones and obviously the customers will not be impressed,” Adil said.
A shop that was trashed by marching Cosas members.
Gift Onyia, an employee at the Rany Hair and Beauty Space, said the learners stole her entire handbag and wig stock, Brazilian hairpieces, nail sets and hair machinery.
“I was fortunate enough to have hidden my phone in my breasts, otherwise they would have taken it. They literally took everything. I don’t know what is going to happen next,” she said.
The learners helped themselves to fruit and vegetables at vendors stalls along Pixley ka Isaka Seme Street.
Provincial police spokesperson Captain Mavela Masondo confirmed that a group of learners also looted shops in Hillbrow.
“They took money from the tills, groceries as well as some personal belonging. They went into the bottle store and did the same,” Masondo said.
He said a case of public violence had been opened.
Some Gauteng high schools, mainly from Soweto and Ekurhuleni, were released as early as 10am yesterday to attend what was meant to be a peaceful march to Luthuli House.
Some of their demands were the fast-tracking of school infrastructure, teachers who are sexual predators to be struck off the roll, and for the #FeesMustFall activists who being prosecuted to be granted amnesty.
Workers at Spar Tops asses the damage and do a clean up after the pupils trashed the store and looted alcohol.
Tebogo Magafane, Cosas provincial secretary, said: “To me, this is a rumour. As far as I know, all the learners that were at the protest were at Luthuli House. If this is true, we don’t condone it.”
Gauteng Education Department spokesperson Steve Mabona said they were aware of the protest and would look into the demands.
ANC spokesperson Dakota Legoete said: “We condemn this act and encourage all those affected to open a case so the perpetrators can be found.”
ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule addressed the crowd before it dispersed.