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Pretoria - Foreign nationals, under threat from criminal elements and attack in Mamelodi East, have been advised to pack up and leave the area until calm is restored.
This follows the looting of more than 100 foreign-owned shops in Mamelodi East, and the death of three people and others injured between Saturday and Wednesday evening.
Participants in a stakeholder meeting held on Wednesday night resolved that it was in the best interest of the foreign nationals to abandon their businesses while community structures tried to reason with “criminal elements”.
“We agreed to allow a restoration process to take place, to hold community meetings and catch the perpetrators so that this stops,” said community policing forum leader (CPF) Eddie Mnguni.
Mnguni chaired Wednesday’s crisis meeting attended by members of the Mamelodi police station, the CPF, SA National Civics Organisation and other structures. He said they had jointly condemned the actions of unruly youth, who had continued to attack and loot foreign-owned spaza shops.
“We discussed all options at length, and agreed that their evacuation was the best option, under the circumstances,” Mnguni said.
He said the attacks were not necessarily xenophobic, but had stemmed from a miscommunication during an altercation between a Somali shop owner and local boys on Saturday evening. “We undertook to engage with the community until we find the perpetrators and restore order,” he said, adding that they had also re-activated a forum which dealt with such incidents, which would be strengthened by law enforcement.
Two men – one local and the other a Somali shop owner – were killed at the start of the violence on Saturday night. A young man was shot and killed after an attempted break-in at a spaza shop, while the shop owner was attacked and killed with rocks while his shop was being robbed. Another died on Tuesday night, after he was caught trying to break into a supermarket.
The looting continued through to Wednesday night, where more Somali nationals were injured.
Shop owners have been forced to flee, some having enough time to pack the stock from their shops into vans and taking it away, others with nothing but the clothes on their backs.
Community members and the foreigners have labelled the attacks as xenophobic, saying no locally owned business had been hit.
The Somalis have taken refuge at a Somali-owned house in Pretoria West, where about 300 men spend their nights sleeping in the yard, without blankets or mattresses, which were stolen or left behind during their escapes.
The Foreigners Association of Pretoria said that while the concern for their safety was appreciated, the situation could have been arrested before it became so volatile.
Amnesty International said government and the police were not doing enough to protect Somali refugees.