Pretoria - Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) members and the Greater Gauteng Business Forum are accused of being behind the attacks on Somalis and their shops in Mamelodi East.
They are also accused of mobilising and arming youths to destabilise the community and scare foreigners away.
The two groups have been accused of using nyaope-smoking youths to incite other young people to loot shops and attack their foreign owners, forcing them to close shop and leave the township.
“They set these young men on a trail of destruction to push foreigners out, so economic power can be given back to locals,” said Walter da Costa, co-ordinator of the Displaced and Migrant Persons Support Programme.
Members of the group – which falls under the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) – were dispatched to the community when the riots began three weeks ago. They went into the township to try to get to the root of the problem and come up with mitigating strategies.
“We went deep into the community and spoke to young people, some of them leaders of the action. They talked about their mandate to cause chaos,” the programme co-ordinator said.
The use of nyaope boys was strategic because they would do anything to get their next fix, and their violent nature made them unstoppable, he said.
The violence started in the Phomolong informal settlement three weeks ago and spread across the township, with groups of armed youths working after dark, attacking and looting shops, stripping them bare.
Where shops were closed they forced open security gates, plundered everything and torched the interiors.
Three Somali shopkeepers have been killed and many seriously injured. More than 300 have fled, some with their stock, most with nothing but the clothes on their back.
While the Somalis and human rights groups have described the attacks as xenophobic, police say criminal elements were at play.
Da Costa said the attacks were “opportunistic xenophobia”.
Only foreigners were targeted.
“They are highly unlikely to attack local businesses, especially because some local business people are behind the action.”
Serialong Malete, of the EFF, refused to comment on the allegations, and accused the media of negative publicity against the party. She declined to accept a written query to respond to after the investigation.
The Greater Gauteng Business Forum’s Tshwane chairman, Mpane Baloyi, said the EFF was behind the Mamelodi attacks.
He said the party was the instigator, and was using the forum’s good name to push its agenda.
“The EFF’s major objective is to destabilise the country. Right now they are using our name to do this.”
Baloyi said forum members were disciplined and had a reputation for entrepreneurship that was being tarnished by the EFF.
The police, policing forums and other structures in the community have met to find ways of stopping the looting and to restore order, saying they want the foreign businessmen to return.
Police said they were investigating the cause of the trouble. A spokesman said they would not divulge aspects of the investigation that could jeopardise the case.