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South African police have arrested three men over a break-in at the offices of the country’s chief justice which has shaken confidence in the independence of its judiciary.

Khomotso Phahlane, the acting national police commissioner, said on Wednesday that despite the arrests, the police had not yet recovered computers stolen from Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng’s office which contained sensitive personal files on judges.

Saturday’s break-in has raised the alarm among civil-society groups and opposition parties in South Africa as it came a day after the highest court heavily criticised the government over its handling of a near-meltdown in the welfare system.

South Africa’s state security agency has denied that it was involved in the burglary while the ruling African National Congress has warned against “conspiracy theories”.

Mr Phahlane said that the three men did not work at the chief justice’s office. “They were just criminals,” he said, adding that more arrests were expected.

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