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Cape Town - Cape Town’s Pakistani community are in shock following a gun attack on six men at a Rocklands house which left four men dead and two fighting for their lives in hospital.
Abdul Jabbar Memon, Pakistan’s deputy high commissioner in Pretoria, has condemned the attack and called for a speedy and transparent investigation.
Yesterday, a few hundred Pakistanis protested outside the Mitchells Plain police station, chanting “we want justice”, “no bail” and calling for the police to protect foreigners.
Later, a bigger crowed picketed outside Parliament, most of them carrying placards reading “no bail for killers”.
The dead were identified as Muhammad Shafique, 42, Adnan Haider, 23, Ghulam Baqar, 23, and Shazad Ahmad, 39. Two others are in hospital in a critical condition.
Police confirmed that a 28-year-old man had been arrested. A firearm and a stolen safe were recovered. A black Mercedes Benz 200, hijacked on Monday, reportedly led the police to the suspect.
The dead men were relatives, friends and employees of Abid Hussain, a prominent businessmen who is married to a South African woman and has lived in Mitchells Plain for 16 years. South Africans and Pakistanis in Rocklands described Hussain as a benevolent and popular man in the community.
His company, Eastern Distributors, distributes bread to supermarkets. The company recently landed a lucrative contract with Albany Bakeries, which reportedly angered a rival distributor.
Friends of the dead men named the man they believed to be the mastermind behind the killings, saying he was a business rival of Hussain.
Hussain is abroad, but his wife, Rukshana Hussain, was at home when two gunmen stormed into her Rocklands home shortly after 10pm.
She said a tall skinny man wearing a cap had come into the lounge while she and her brother-in-law Ghulam Baqar were watching TV.
A tearful Hussain said: “He asked Baqar to show him to the safe. Then he said ‘what is your name’ and Baqar answered him. Those are the only words that were exchanged. The man raised his gun and shot Baqar twice. He turned, stopped, and then shot him a third time.”
Hussain believed that asking for Baqar’s name indicated that it was a targeted hit, and not merely an armed robbery. Moments later, a second gunman opened fire in the next room, where two men were shot dead and two were injured.
Hussain said one of the injured men, identified only as Asif, survived a murder attempt a little over a week ago. He was shot in the shoulder while delivering bread.
The fourth man to be shot dead was outside the house in Uranus Street.
As the gunmen were fleeing, a neighbour, who asked not to be named, came out with his firearm. But as he pursued the assailants, he was shot at.
Police and paramedics were called. Family and friends argued with the police, calling for the bodies to be covered, especially the body outside.
“These are not dogs, they were human beings. Especially to us as Muslims, this is incredibly degrading – to see our brothers lying like dead animals,” said Rana Ahmed, a business partner of Hussain.
But police said they needed to secure the scene for forensic investigation and could not allow family and friends inside.
Ahmed spent most of yesterday morning negotiating with police to access the house to retrieve the dead men’s passports, so they could be returned to Pakistan as soon as possible.
Raymond Wanewich, a neighbour and member of the local block watch, said that he comforted one of the dying men for at least an hour before he died.
“He had a pulse all that time and he was coming in and out of consciousness. I told the paramedic, but he said that there was nothing that could be done for him. He was as good as dead, they told me,” Wanewich said.
The murders have spotlighted the vulnerability of immigrants on the Cape Flats, and sparked an emotional reaction from Pakistanis across the city. Among those protesting outside Parliament was Amir Nadeem, 31, who moved to Mitchells Plain from Pakistan seven years ago. Nadeem’s brother, who came to South Africa with him, was murdered two years ago.
“They arrested a man. But a few weeks later I saw him by the shopping centre. He laughed at me and did this,” he said, raising his middle finger in the air.
“He got out on R500 bail. We say, not again! No bail!”
Iftikhar Butt, general secretary of the Pakistani Community Welfare Association of the Western Cape, said Pakistani men and women fled to South Africa to escape from the violent conflicts which marred their home country.
“There are suicide bomb attacks in many of Pakistan’s cities. These force people to consider immigration, but after today they are not sure whether it was wise to move here. Many of the young men are afraid and they want to go home.”