Ongoing clashes between residents and foreign shop owners in Bophelong have led to uncertainty and tension.
Weeks of discussions have occurred between the residents, local authorities, foreign shop owners, and landlords, focusing on the issues related to the presence of foreign-owned shops in the community.
These persistent tensions have escalated into several incidents of looting, resulting in a burnt panel van and multiple damaged shops.
On Wednesday morning, residents gathered at the old square in Bophelong for another attempt to address their concerns regarding foreign-owned shops.
However, what was anticipated as a peaceful dialogue quickly turned into a scene of violence, with concerned residents setting tires on fire in front of locked shops while shop owners looked on in shock.
The situation further deteriorated as residents clashed with foreign shop owners, leading to police intervention, which involved the deployment of stun grenades.
In a separate incident, one shop in Extension 1 was looted while Public Order Police focused on other shops.
Responding to these dramatic events, various law enforcement agencies promptly arrived at the scene to try and restore order and prevent further violence.
Brigadier Nikiwe Sefatsa, the station commander in Vanderbijlpark, addressed the assembled crowds, recognising the frustration and chaos that engulfed the township.
She emphasised, “We know there are resident leaders who received court orders. We are not going to pretend like there is no chaos in this township.”
Sefatsa cautioned residents against criminal activities while expressing dissatisfaction with the foreign shop owners.
“For safety’s sake, we are going to advise foreign shop owners to leave the community. All we ask is to give them time to move out of your township,” she said, as jubilation spread among the residents.
Sefatsa hinted at a comprehensive compliance process that foreign shop owners would need to undergo before being allowed to return to the community. The situation remains tense, and efforts are ongoing to resolve the issues in Bophelong.
Picture: X / KutoaneWebster
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