Police told people to loot stores in Soweto, looters and shopkeepers claimed.
Shopkeepers interviewed by CityPress spoke of their treatment at the hands of police, with some officers telling them to "go back to where you come from".
Shopkeepers also claimed that officers demanded bribes to do their jobs and helped themselves to airtime and cooldrinks.
Over 100 mostly foreign-owned stores in Soweto were looted this month, with some of the worst xenophobic violence seen in years.
Ten Soweto residents who admitted to taking part in the activity told CityPress about the police's role as well.
The residents claimed that police instructed looters to line up outside a store, only allowing four people in at a time.
"I have never seen something like cops helping people to steal," one of the residents was quoted as saying.
"I was expecting the cops to stop the looters from stealing, but they allowed and organised them to do it. All they kept on saying was that people should not vandalise the shops," said another.
A Somali shopkeeper claimed that they saw police giving away stolen bread to women.
"They told me: 'You are nothing, brother. Keep quiet - if you talk too much, I'll give your stock away, all of it'," the shopkeeper was quoted as saying.