One person has been killed and eight others injured after a gunman opened fire in a packed theatre in South Africa yesterday.

Police have said the man opened fire after his phone went missing in the audience.

The man shot indiscriminately at the crowd in the Hillbrow Theatre, in central Johannesburg, demanding his mobile phone.

"The suspect fired randomly at the crowd, and one person died and eight others were wounded," said police spokesman Lungelo Dlamini.

"It is understood that the man had his phone stolen. He fled the scene on foot after the incident," he said.

Police are still searching for the assailant.

The theatre caretaker who escaped the violence told The Citizen newspaper that he heard the gunshot and rushed inside to find patrons jostling to escape.

"It seems the man lost his stuff in the crowd and started complaining about his phone," he said.

He added: "He grabbed the microphone and started saying whoever took his phone must give it back."

Hillbrow is a notorious and densely populated inner city suburb, known for violent crimes.

The concert at the theatre had been staged to raise funds to support an organisation that offers safe space for children.