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Police to use all available resources to track down Gqeberha arsonists

Police Minister Bheki Cele said on Thursday that 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.

The minister and his deputy Cassel Mathale visited the area on Thursday following the chaos and violence that broke out on Wednesday as a result of a road rage incident.

Cele and Mathale were accompanied by the deputy national Commissioner responsible for policing, Lieutenant General Fannie Masemola and the senior management of the South African Police Service (SAPS), during their Thursday visit following the 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.

According to police reports, alleged 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 were also not spared while three shops were also set alight.

The police ministry said that following a full police briefing on the incident, the SAPS top brass met with leaders of the concerned groupings involved in the violence and destruction.

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“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 ministry said.

Cele praised both groupings for their efforts to find a peaceful solution, but he 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 safe gaurd 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,” Cele said.

Cele also expressed his concern with reports that some people were 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.

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