Cape Town - Nyanga residents went on the rampage in an apparent revenge attack after two Somali shopkeepers were arrested for allegedly shooting a seven-year-old boy on Saturday.
The shopkeepers opened fire, believing they were under attack, after a stone was thrown at their shop in an incident over the weekend.
Kwanele Mbele was hit in the back and underwent a five-hour operation at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital. His condition was listed as stable on Monday.
Zwelitsha residents said they were retaliating against the Somali shopkeepers and would not take any ill-treatment from them.
“The Somalis should not shoot at people. A boy is in hospital because of them,” said resident Babalwa Mokwoena. “We don’t mind them being here, but we will not tolerate shots fired here again.”
Two Somali shops were looted on Sunday night – one in Second Avenue about 200m from Kwanele’s home and the other in Phumlani Street, where Kwanele was shot the day before his seventh birthday.
Oliver Maka, who shared a house with the shopkeepers in Phumlani Street, said that on the night after the shooting, residents had tried unsuccessfully to break into the shop.
The residents returned again on Sunday afternoon. This time they slipped past an unlocked security gate.
“They got in and took everything: the stock, the fridges and even the TV that was in a separate room,” said Maka.
“I called the home owner and told him to come, and when he came he was with other Somali shopkeepers. The shopkeepers refused to take the little things that were left behind saying they would return,” he said.
Crates were scattered on the floor and groceries spread across the room: spilled maize meal, soap, potatoes and bread lay on the floor.
Meanwhile, the Second Avenue shop was completely cleaned out.
The roof, doors, windows and fridges had already been taken by residents. Many claimed that gangsters, taking advantage of the situation, had started the looting.
Resident Mcedisi Plaatjies said attacks on Somalis were spiralling out of control.
“The gangsters first threw stones at the Somalis’ bakkie. Then the shopkeepers came out and one fired several shots in the air. Police arrived and then the shopkeepers ran away because their gun was not licensed. After the Somalis left, the police followed and the people started looting,” he said.
On Monday morning, people were still visiting the empty shop scouting for anything left over.
“I was too scared to loot last night, so I came in today hoping I would find something. I only found a drink-o-pop sachet and 40 cents,” said resident Hilda Mtwazi.
A group of men in their early 20s admitted to taking part in the looting. They said they had started at the Phumlani Street shop before moving on to the one in Second Avenue.
“We want to make sure that this shop (in Phumlani Street) does not exist. How could you shoot at a child?” said one of the men.
Another said: “We were being naughty, but, on the other hand, these people treat us like scum when we come to buy stuff.”
They men said they had made about R5 000 out of all the looted goods, including the fridges.
Somali shopkeeper Abdi Mohamed, who also trades in Zwelitsha, said he had closed shop on Sunday, fearing that his shop would also be looted.
“Yesterday we were scared, but today things are looking quiet.”
He said he would close shop immediately if he felt unsafe.
Police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Andrè Traut confirmed the shops were looted.
He said two suspects, aged 22 and 28, were arrested in connection with the incident and they will appear in court once they have been charged.