PRETORIA, South African Police Minister Fikile Mbalula has condemned the violent acts which took place in Rustenburg in North West Province where a group of people went on the rampage, burning six buildings believed to be drug dens on Wednesday.

No matter how justified people might think they are, taking the law into their own hands does not make them different from the people they accuse of being criminals. People must know we are a democratic State, with competent institutions that can resolve all concerns, he said Thursday.

Mbalula has instructed police to bring order in Rustenburg and work with the people to fight crime. Already, North West police are on the ground trying to normalise the situation.

We cannot co-exist with criminals. Police must smoke criminals out of our communities but our people must work closely with the police. If the local police fail them, they must escalate the matter. There are many people of goodwill. We need to pull in one direction and comprehensively respond to acts of crime, Mbalula said.

Meanwhile, the Rustenburg Local Municipality has called on taxi operators, community members and all stakeholders involved in the mob justice in the city’s central business district (CBD) on Wednesday to stop the violence and report all incidents to the police.

The South African Police Service (SAPS) is working together with the Rustenburg Local Municipality to quell further incidents of violence. The municipality fully understands the community outrage against drug trafficking, human trafficking and prostitution. The municipality is currently working with police and community members to calm the city after numerous incidents of violence in some parts of the city, the municipality said in a statement.

According to the municipality, what seems to have sparked the incidents of violence was an allegation made by community members that a certain police officer was caught in the company of known drug dealers in possession of drugs in Rustenburg North.

In addition to this, on Monday afternoon, a violent confrontation erupted between Rustenburg taxi operators and alleged drug addicts, who were reportedly found committing crime within the city.

The situation escalated to mob justice against the alleged criminals. Law enforcement was called to the scene, which resulted in the arrest of five taxi operators, who were alleged to have assaulted the drug addicts. The chaos which ensued resulted in taxi operators blockading both the taxi and bus ranks, leaving frustrated commuters stranded.

During this campaign of violence, all the premises within the CBD known for drug trafficking, human trafficking and prostitution were set alight. To date, 10 properties have been razed by fire. Although the situation remains tense, some level of calmness has descended on the CBD, said the municipality.

The municipality acknowledged the matter of drug and human trafficking, saying it is working to rid the municipality of the scourge. Over the last three months, the municipality has intensified collaboration with other stakeholders in declaring war against drug trafficking, human trafficking and prostitution. Consequently, numerous drug houses and brothels have been closed. The last operation was undertaken together with the Hawks and other law enforcement agencies on Friday, 3 January.

We would like to once more reiterate our stance that there is no place for violence, as it can be counterproductive. We would like to urge all our residents to remain calm and not allow the situation to degenerate even further. More intensive patrols throughout the city will be undertaken by all law enforcement agencies. We would like to apologise to all commuters affected for the inconvenience caused, said the municipality.