Shops belonging to foreign nationals were looted on Wednesday night in Soweto. Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA)

Johannesburg - Unemployment, tax evasion and revenge over Joburg police raids last week are the reasons why Soweto foreign-owned shops were looted, bringing the township into chaos.

“A group of people came from town and said they want to avenge the violent attacks on the police by foreigners. They came here and started tearing down the store,” said Thabo Khumalo, a resident from White City.

Seated on a chair next to a looted shop whose doors were smashed, Khumalo said he supported the looting which started on Wednesday night and spread throughout the township.

Although residents claimed that the looting was triggered by the Joburg raids, however, Gauteng Premier David Makhura disapproved of the act.

The chaos started around 6pm in White City where groups of locals started invading foreign-owned shops and looted their stock. The violence quickly spread to other parts of the township. This forced many shop owners to flee, leaving the shops unattended.

The fortunate ones got assistance from police who gave them protection while they were packing their stock into their vehicles. In some cases police had to fire rubber bullets to fend off looters.

Nkosinathi Ngubelalanga, a Soweto resident, said he did not approve of the looting but understood where it comes from.

“The money they take from the community doesn't stay here, it goes back to their home countries,” he said.

He sympathised with the shop owners but said they should follow the law.

“The government is the reason foreigners are here. They wouldn't be here if the government hadn't allowed it,” he said.

He said a lot of people, especially the youth, were unemployed and this was another major reason for the looting.

While the streets of Soweto were quiet on Thursday, shop owners desperately waited for transport at Moroka Police Station as they tried to forget Wednesday night's horror.

John Jamal, a shop owner in Meadowlands, said: “People came like the rain, they just poured into my shop and took everything. I hid then the police came after 30 minutes and I decided to leave with them."

Gauteng MEC for Economic Development Dr Kgosientso Ramokgopa said until the root causes are addressed, looting would continue to happen.

“This is simply a manifestation it can take another turn tomorrow. It can be an attack on some installation or establishment. We have to address issues of youth unemployment, lack of opportunities,” he said.

Police spokesperson Kay Makhubele said seven people have been arrested.

"The suspects were arrested for public violence and being in possession of stolen property," he said.

The Star