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Four spaza shops in Beacon Valley were petrol-bombed within minutes of each other, in the latest in a spate of attacks on foreign shopkeepers in Cape Town.
The attacks took place in quick succession just after 10pm on Wednesday night. One of the shops was open during the attack.
One traumatised shop-owner was locked in his shop when the Cape Argus interviewed him on Thursday morning, saying he feared for his life.
Mdi Mijan, from Pakistan, said he was packing up his stock just after 10pm on Wednesday night when he heard a loud bang and glass breaking.
“When I looked behind me, the front counter in my shop was burning along with my stock. I saw two men running away... Everything was burning, and I started shouting for help,” Mijan said.
Neighbours helped him extinguish the fire. Half-burnt potato chip and chocolate wrappers and some money were strewn over the still-wet floor on Thursday. “I tried my best to clean up but it was too dark because the bomb burned the lights on the roof.”
Two shops near Mijan’s store in Metropolitan Street were also petrol-bombed.
Mariska Simons, one of the shop owners, said she had only returned home on Thursday morning after her shop was targeted.
Her kitchen has been gutted, water is everywhere and everything in the spaza shop had been burnt.
Simons said the Pakistani man, Amjad, who ran the shop at her home, and his two assistants had run away. “I haven’t seen them since last night.”
She said she had heard a loud bang and she saw flames coming out of the kitchen on Wednesday night. “I was already sleeping with my two-year-old. Then we ran to a neighbour’s home.”
Simons said the shop was her only income after she lost her job due to tuberculosis. “My baby and I are on TB medication and the rent money from the shop was how I made money to pay for this house. I don’t even know where to start. This is terrible.”
The other shop on Metropolitan Street was locked earlier on Thursday. In Hengelaar Street, a frustrated Shafieka Petersen stood outside the shop she used to rent to two Somali men, Abdulei and Ali.
She said the shop was open when it was attacked: “Abdulei told me they were busy serving a customer when (the attackers) threw a petrol bomb into the shop. Luckily, no one was injured. He said they saw about three men who ran back into their car and drove off.”
Petersen said the attack was inhumane because the shop-owners went out of their way to help residents. “They would sell sugar for R1 or give to people who didn’t have the money. Pick n Pay is not going to give you that. We as South Africans can learn a lot from them. They come here with nothing and yet when they have, they give back to the people.”
Some of the residents who gathered outside the shops said they believed the attacks were planned, as only a few shops had been targeted.
One resident, who declined to be named, said he had heard of other attacks in Lentegeur and Eastridge.
Police spokesman Andre Traut confirmed the four incidents in Beacon Valley and said no arrests had been made yet.
Traut could not confirm if there had been attacks in the other two areas.
l Meanwhile, Community Safety MEC Dan Plato has vowed to take action against what he calls negligence on the part of police in Vahalla Park on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, the Cape Argus reported that scores of Somali businessmen packed up shop and fled Valhalla Park after shops were petrol-bombed, apparently by gangsters.
After the attacks, and in some cases while shopkeepers where loading stock on to bakkies, large crowds looted the spaza shops.
Police were in the area throughout the day. Referring to photographs and reports in Die Burger which showed police apparently standing by while looting was taking place, Plato said he would call on the Independent Police Investigative Directorate to investigate and take necessary action against wrongdoing.
“If police did indeed stand by and do nothing more than watch while thugs damaged property and stole groceries, I want to see these policemen and women charged with negligence,” said Plato.
“Police are meant to prevent and combat crime... It would appear that they failed to do so yesterday.”