South African police fired rubber bullets and stun grenades in Pretoria on Wednesday as protests erupted in the central business district, with rioters setting several small businesses alight.
Daily Afrika has learnt that calm has been restored to Pretoria after violence exploded in the capital city, police said on Thursday morning.
In footage captured by News24 reporter Alex Mitchley, police can be seen firing rubber bullets as looters run amok in Lilian Ngoyi Street.
The footage went viral in local media showing people who appeared to be looting during the chaos.
Lillian Ngoyi and Bloed streets remain cordoned off because of the clashes. Some foreign-owned shops and other properties have also been looted and set alight. Firefighters at the scene were trying to put out the fires.
Some locals said they were angry at the increasing peddling of drugs in the city.
Police were monitoring the situation. Authorities said criminals were exploiting the tense situation.
A local newspaper said the clashes started after taxi drivers clashed with drug dealers operating in the area.
The taxi drivers had reportedly decided to target sellers of “nyaope,” a common street drug in South Africa.
A taxi driver was allegedly shot and killed in the confrontation, thus, riots broke out and quickly escalated, with hundreds of taxis blocking major roads and the city suspending bus services.
Also according to the City of Tshwane, the riots were incited by a shooting which resulted in the death of a taxi driver.
Police urged vehicles to avoid the area. Some locals said they were angry at the increasing peddling of drugs in the city.
Police were monitoring the situation. A large group of people believed to be taxi drivers was protesting.
Police spokesperson Brig Mathapelo Peters confirmed that 17 people were arrested for the violence on Wednesday.
Peters said 10 suspects were arrested for being in possession of the suspected stolen property, while seven others were arrested for public violence.
We had planned for a demonstration to highlight some of our issues with the shooting of one of us, and we believe some criminal elements took advantage and exploited our plan to advance their criminal intent,” the SA National Taxi Council’s Mack Makata said.
A task team has been formed to quell “tensions” in the Pretoria CBD.
“The taxi industry plays an integral part in the wellbeing of our communities, so when they cry out for police attention, it is important that we respond positively and swiftly, in the best interests of the community,” provincial commissioner Lt-Gen Elias Mawela said.