At least eight houses were torched overnight in Rustenburg, in the North West province of South Africa as community members attacked suspected drug dens and brothels.
A businessman, who identified himself as Nic from Uganda, said two of his guest houses were damaged.
"One guest house was vandalised on Monday, and this one was torched last night," Nic said on Thursday while standing in front of his burnt property.
"There is a hydrant, and the fire brigade is a block away, less than 500 m, they did not assist. The fire brigade only came when the fire was about to spill over to the funeral parlour next door.
"On the other building at the corner there, fire brigade responded when the fire threatened the business below. It is like the waited for foreign owned businesses to be burnt and only protected those owned by locals," said Nic, who said he was a former lecturer.
He said it would cost him more than a million rand to repair his guest houses.
A taxi operator, who asked to remain anonymous, told the African News Agency (ANA) that reports doing the rounds that an alleged nyaope addict stole a radio from a minibus taxi which sparked the violence were false. He said the incident was related to drugs.
"This is all about drug dealing it is not about a stolen radio. We have seen nyaope being sold openly at the taxi rank, the nyaope boys are now attacking and killing people including operators to feed their habit.
"A taxi driver was kidnapped allegedly by nyaope addicts on December 15 and was found in the bushes on December 27, he was taken to hospital were he died on January 3.
"Two taxi drivers were attacked, on January 6, on Sunday operators decided to act, they went to Boitekong and caught two suspected gang members, one was set alight," he said.
"On Monday some taxi operators sent a nyaope boy to buy it, when he came back they took him to the drug dealer, he led them to Rustenburg Noord where large quantity of nyaope was found.
"The police came ... took the nyaope and handed it back to the dealer, and arrested two of the taxi operators. That is when we decided to smoke out all drug dens in Rustenburg."
The African National Congress (ANC) in North West called for calm and urge all members of the public to allow the police to restore order and to allow emergency medical and rescue services as well as the fire brigade access to the area.
"No matter what the reason behind the clashes could be, we strongly condemn the torching of properties by angry community members and call on the department of community safety and transport management as well as the Rustenburg municipal public safety department to intervene and restore order," said ANC provincial spokesperson Gerald Modise.
"All perpetrators must face the full might of the law,"
North West Provincial Police Commissioner Lieutenant General Baile Motswenyane condemned the violence and warned members of the community to refrain from damaging of properties.
"Residents are urged to remain calm and comply with the directives given by law enforcement officials," she said.
The Rustenburg local municipality said: "Over the last three months, the Rustenburg local 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 the 5th January," the municipality said.
The situation was tense but calm on Thursday. Police on horse back were seen patrolling the streets. Police vehicles were parked at the taxi rank.
Privately, some locals praised the taxi operators for raiding and torching drug dens and brothels.
- African News Agency (ANA)