Durban – Police Minister Bheki Cele has spoken out against men seen in videos on social media wielding large caliber weapons amid the outbreak of violence between Somali shop owners and taxi drivers in Gqeberha Wednesday.
During a visit to the city on Thursday, Cele expressed concern that some people were carrying large caliber weapons on Durban Road amid the violence.
“We have gun laws in this country and we respect them, the law is clear that you cannot carry and brandish a gun in public – we are not at war – if you do, you break the law, ”Cele said.
“I am encouraged that the police continue to seek licenses for these weapons and subject them to ballistic tests to see if they have been used in the commission of a crime,” the minister said.
It came as Cele pledged to hunt down all those responsible for the violence and arson that rocked Korsten Township on Wednesday following an altercation between taxi drivers and Somali shop owners.
As a strong police presence guarded the shaken town, Cele and Deputy Police Minister Cassel Mathale, Deputy National Commissioner responsible for Police, Lieutenant General Fannie Masemola and senior management of the South Police Department. African visited the region on Thursday.
According to police, several shops as well as eight taxis were set on fire after a fight broke out between a taxi driver and a Somali businessman involved in a collision.
The incident spilled over and led to a wave of violence in which images of heavily armed men were shared on social media amid the chaos of burning taxis.
A total of 12 vehicles and three stores were set on fire. Vendor stalls were also damaged in the violence.
After a full police briefing on the incident, senior police officials met with the leaders of the affected groups involved in the violence and destruction.
As they differed on the exact details of how events would unfold, all parties agreed to foster a dialogue to ensure tensions between the taxi industry and local businessmen, who are mostly Somali nationals , do not get even worse, Lirandzu Themba, said the spokesperson for the police ministry.
Minister Cele praised the efforts of both groups to find a peaceful solution, but warned that arson is a very serious offense that will not go unpunished.
“While you are negotiating with each other, the police will not negotiate the crime. They have a constitutional mandate to respect, which is to protect citizens and their property, which is why the police are exploring all avenues to find and bring to justice those who set fire to a taxi, an ATM or a store, ”he said. Cele said.
The Police Department welcomed the steps taken by the SAPS to deploy more officers to the region to ensure stability, as well as the deployment of more officers as force multipliers in the Walmer region in the province that has seen a spate of murders believed to be linked to gang violence.