Cape Town - Langa residents have begged for forgiveness from
foreign shopowners in the township after their shops were looted during protests.
Community leaders have also undertaken to try to protect the shopowners in future and to include them in talks about problems in the community.
A total of 53 shops belonging to Somalis and Ethiopians were attacked and looted by residents who went on the rampage on Wednesday.
The shopowners have since refused to reopen their businesses until their safety is guaranteed.
On Sunday the Langa Joint Committee held a meeting between residents of the area, the South African Council of Churches in the Western Cape, the Somali Association of SA and shopowners.
“Our people are going hungry without you. It is hard for families who depend on your shops to get their bread. Please accept our most heartfelt apology… we are doing all we can to ensure your safety,” said Joint Committee member Fuzile Gogo.
He promised that no protests would be held before July 24, a deadline by which the city was due to respond to a memorandum.
“I’ll admit we did not do enough to ensure the protection of our brothers,” Gogo said. Although the protest had been launched by the committee, it had been hijacked by “a group of criminals” who had nothing to do with residents’ grievances.
Mustafar Haaji, chairman of the Langa Somali Association, accepted Gogo’s apology, but said the attacks on the shops had been xenophobic.
Haaji’s appliances and R7 000 in cash were stolen.
“There were South African businessmen who did not have their shops touched. It is because we are Somalis. This is not the first time and it won’t be the last.”
He often feared for his life, but he had no choice but to continue working in Langa.
Adikadir Mohamed, a member of the Somali association, said: “You have to understand, we are visitors to this country. We expect to be protected by you. We don’t know what to do or where to go. We are so lost.”