A resident of the Jeppe hostel holds an axe in the Johannesburg CBD, September 3 2019. Picture: MICHELLE SPARARI/ AFP
A resident of the Jeppe hostel holds an axe in the Johannesburg CBD, September 3 2019. Picture: MICHELLE SPARARI/ AFP

Five people have been killed and 189 arrested in a spate of violence that has rocked parts of Johannesburg since Sunday‚ police said on Tuesday.

More police have been deployed to hot spots after two more deaths were reported in Coronationville on Tuesday afternoon.

“Police have increased deployments to cover all the areas identified as hot spots. Violence has seen several shops being looted‚ burned and property being looted‚” said police spokesperson Col Lungelo Dlamini.

He said the situation  had been stabilised in parts of Tshwane‚ Ekurhuleni‚ Johannesburg Central‚ Jeppestown and Cleveland. But violent  clashes continued in Coronationville.

Listen | What Police Minister General Bheki Cele plans to do about violent looting in Gauteng

Police minister Bheki Cele on Tuesday confirmed five people had been killed in the three days of rioting, but did not give further details on the circumstances nor on arrests. 

 “We can’t rule out pure criminality, of criminals using a sensitive situation where there are real grievances on issues of unemployment and foreign nationals,”  Cele told reporters. 

He ruled out sending in the army, as the government did in Cape Town in July to quell gang-related killings. 

The latest clashes prompted Gauteng premier David Makhura to leave a meeting between Cele and those affected by the violence  to call for calm.

 Makhura said during an inspection of the damage in Alexandra that there was a “xenophobic sentiment” underlying the attacks.  

Police said two people had been  killed in Coronationville‚ two in Hillbrow and one near the Jeppe hostel. 

“A total of 189 arrests have been effected since Sunday‚” said Dlamini. Those arrested will be charged with  public violence‚ malicious damage to property‚ theft and business break-ins.

Police said they used rubber bullets to disperse a crowd that planned to loot businesses in Thokoza and Kempton Park earlier on Tuesday.

Dlamini said criminals gangs were taking advantage of the chaotic situation and breaking into businesses. He said attacks were indiscriminate  and not only foreign-owned businesses were being targeted.

The process of identify leaders of the violent groups was under way. “Arrests will be made once full evidence against them has been gathered‚” said Dlamini.

Gauteng police commissioner Lt-Gen Elias Mawela thanked members of the public who provided information during the protests. No unlawful activities will be tolerated, he said.

“All our members are on the ground to deal with criminality‚” he said.

TimesLIVE, with AFP