Durban - A teenager was killed and foreign-owned shops looted in Lindelani, north of Durban, at the weekend after a shoplifting incident turned into what some believed was a xenophobic attack.
On Saturday a mob looted the Somali-owned Bafana General Dealer store. A teen’s body was found sprawled on the road opposite the shop.
Earlier, three teenagers were caught by the owners for shoplifting. They escaped from the shop and returned with a mob to loot it.
Residents blamed the shop owner for the death and began attacking other foreign-owned shops with bricks.
Police spokesman Captain Thulani Zwane said six people were arrested and charged with public violence. A case of murder was opened at the Ntuzuma Police Station.
A spokesman for Somali-owned businesses in Lindelani, Ahmed Mohammed, said the store owner had been wrongly accused of the shooting as none of them had guns. He said someone in the mob had accidentally shot the teenager.
“The wrong information was spread that we killed him,” Mohammed said, adding that the mob then turned on them. “One store was damaged and another was looted. Other shops are operational in the nearby area.”
A resident, who did not want to be named for fear of reprisals, confirmed the shoplifting incident. After the boys escaped, they stood outside the shop and began insulting the owner, he said.
It is alleged the boys had wanted a cellphone and a cap they had left behind in the shop. Residents calmed them down and they left, but they returned minutes later with a mob.
Nozipho Mkhize, who lives nearby, said the road resembled a war zone.
Mkhize and her family were sitting in their front yard when they saw bricks and bottles being thrown at the shop.
“There were about 500 people on the road, most of them teenagers. They also looted another shop a few metres away,” she said.
Mohammed said the area had become volatile overnight. On Sunday he decided to close two shops in the road where the incident occurred.
As he was loading the fridges, fittings and the remainder of the stock on to a truck he said several children ran in and took packets of chips from the boxes. The truck was also stoned while it was leaving.
The store closures are hitting employees hard.
A mother of two children aged 13 and 2, who wished to remain anonymous, said she was now hunting for another job to avoid a bleak Christmas.
Two weeks ago, a shop owned by a Somali in KwaMashu’s J-Section was looted. A group of about 30 men stormed the store belonging to Salman Husain, 26.
Police spokesman Colonel Jay Naicker said a case of business robbery had been opened regarding that incident.
Naicker said four men had robbed the shopkeeper at gunpoint, but there were no indications that any of the incidents were xenophobic attacks