By Augustine Ehikioya
Police authority in South Africa has threatened to fish out and make all arsonists who took part in the wanton destruction of property in Gqeberha to face the wrath of the law.
According to a statement by Lirandzu Themba, for the Ministry of Police, made available to Security Watch Africa (SWA) on Monday, Police Minister, General Bheki Cele, gave the warning.
The statement said “Police Minister, General Bheki Cele says Eastern Cape Police will continue to use all available resources at their disposal, to track down and bring to book all arsonists responsible for the wanton destruction of property that took place in Gqeberha on Wednesday.
“This commitment comes as Minister Cele and Deputy Minister of Police Cassel Mathale, Deputy National Commissioner responsible for policing, Lieutenant General Fannie Masemola and senior management of the South African Police Service (SAPS) on Thursday 14 October, 2021, visited the area, following violence that broke out in Korsten, stemming from a motor vehicle accident between a taxi and a sedan believed to belong to a local businessman.
“Police investigations show this single incident led to the torching of several vehicles and property.”
The Police reports also alleged that retaliation between the local businessmen and taxi drivers “ensued and resulted in the damage of 12 vehicles including 8 taxis which were set alight while parked inside the taxi rank.”
Vendor stalls set up in the local taxi rank, the statement said, were also not spared while three shops were also set alight.
“Following a full Police briefing on the incident, the Police top brass met with leaders of the concerned groupings involved in the violence and destruction. While they differed on the exact details of how the events unfolded, all parties agreed to foster a dialogue to ensure the tensions between the taxi industry and the local business people, who are mostly Somali nationals, don’t escalate even further.”
The statement said the Minister Cele praised the efforts by both groupings to find a peaceful solution.
He, however warned that arson is a very serious offence that will not go unpunished.
“While you negotiate with each other, the Police won’t negotiate crime, they have a constitutional mandate to uphold which is to safeguard citizens and their property, this is why Police are exploring all avenues to find and bring to account those who burnt down a taxi, a vending stall or a shop.”
The Minister also expressed his concern in some people seen carrying high calibration weapons during the violence that took place on Durban Road.
“We have gun laws in this country and we abide by them, the law is clear that you cannot carry and brandish a firearm in public – we are not at war- if you do so, you are breaking the law.
“I’m encouraged that Police continue to seek the licences of these weapons and subject them to ballistic testing to see if they have been used in the commission of any crime,” Cele concluded.
The Police Ministry, the statement said, has welcomed the steps taken by the SAPS to deploy more officers to the area to ensure stability as well as the deployment of more officers as “force multipliers to the Walmer area in the Province which has seen a spate of murders believed to be related to gang violence.”