DURBAN - Under the cover of darkness criminals turned KwaMashu into their deadly playground on Monday night, looting and setting fire to foreign-owned shops.
Almost as a testament to the lawlessness unfolding, groups of people casually walked down the street with food items and appliances.
The vehicle in which eNCA reporter Dasen Thathiah was travelling in was stoned as they drove past an angry group helping themselves to stock from a shop near the men’s hostel.
Meanwhile, police already had their hands full in other parts of the township.
Live gunfire pierced the night as faceless shooters attempted to scare off police. Although unconfirmed, some officers believed AK-47s were used.
The narrow roads were littered with rocks and sticks, fires burned and shops showed signs of forced entry.
While the chaos ensued, other foreign business people urgently loaded goods into bakkies and closed up shop.
“They haven’t looted us, but we’re closing up before they come,” said one, as he rushed back into his brother’s tiny shop.
Men packed a small van outside while others threw grocery items to them from inside.
A lone police van parked outside offered them a few minutes of protection - before the two officers rushed off to a looting incident in progress.
Sporadic violence erupted in several sections of KwaMashu, Lindelani and Ntuzuma over at least four hours, since the first reports after 7pm.
Police resources were stretched to the maximum as they rushed from one scene to the next, with extra units deployed from across the city.
Marshall Security‘s Special Operations Team also joined forces with the SAPS to bolster manpower.
Rubber bullets and teargas were used to disperse crowds.
The SAPS believes misinformation disseminated on social media may have sparked the riots.
“Apparently people are disturbed by fake news of children being kidnapped in the area,” said Brigadier Jay Naicker.
“Despite our intervention via the media to inform the community that no such kidnappings took place, messages continue to spread on social media platforms.”
Several people were arrested, but official figures weren't immediately available.
By midnight on Monday, an uneasy calm was returning – but police remained on standby.
In 2015, foreign shop owners and residents were driven out of the township as xenophobia gripped parts of Durban.
Shops were looted and business owners were forced to close their doors indefinitely.