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Pretoria, Wednesday 21 December 2016: On Tuesday, 20 December 2016 at about 11:50, two buses arrived at the Embassy of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Francis Baard Street, Pretoria, carrying approximately 250 people.

An unauthorised protest took place which turned violent when stones were thrown at the embassy building and at members of the South African Police Service (SAPS). A member of the Diplomatic Policing Unit was disarmed by protestors during this incident and his firearm was stolen. Windows and the front gate of the embassy were damaged as the protestors attempted to gain entry to the embassy.

SAPS members, including members of the Public Order Police, dispersed the crowd and nine (9) persons were arrested on various charges including malicious damage to property and public violence.

The effectiveness of our Safer Festive Season #BackToBasics operations was yet again proven in a brilliant policing operation later in the day during which the stolen police firearm was recovered and a suspect arrested. At about 15:00, at a routine roadblock in Yeoville, police stopped a vehicle with a driver and no passengers. They discovered a firearm and on testing it, discovered that it had been stolen earlier from a police officer at the DRC Embassy. The man was taken into custody.

The Acting National Commissioner of the South African Police Service, Lieutenant General Khomotso Phahlane, has condemned the violence displayed at the DRC Embassy.

“As the SAPS, we have always respected the right to peaceful protest; but such protest must be approved by authorities beforehand and the organisers must acknowledge that responsibilities accompany rights,” said Lt Gen Phahlane.

He added: “This was not an authorized protest and the crowd which gathered unlawfully attempted to gain access to the embassy with the apparent intention of setting it alight. The crowd was violent, caused damage to property, attempted to besiege an embassy under our protection and overpowered a police official, robbing him of a police firearm during the chaos. This can never be condoned and the SAPS roundly condemns such conduct”.

Lt Gen Phahlane congratulated the SAPS members who recovered the stolen firearm within hours and effected an arrest.

SAPS members will remain on duty and urge all in South Africa, citizens and visitors alike, to respect the laws of this country.