Shops looted as security strike continues

looters 18/4 Cape Times Losing battle: A lone police officer chases looters away from a shopping centre in Nyanga. Looters took advantage of lax security and smashed the windows of businesses. Photo: Lulama Zenzile, Cape Times

Looting by striking security guards and others taking advantage of lax security was widespread on the Cape Flats over the Easter weekend - and owners of businesses say they are fed up.

Chaos erupted at a shopping centre in Nyanga on Monday when looters robbed businesses, compelling them to close their doors early.

On Saturday, the Western Cape Traders' Association met 12 Cape Flats shop owners who claimed that striking security guards had disrupted their businesses, looted them and harassed staff.

Fed up with what they say is the lack of response from the SA Transport and Allied Workers' Union (Satawu), which represents the security guards who remain on strike, the shop owners have threatened to shoot culprits.

Satawu says it has warned its members to stop disrupting trade.

Of the lack of security at businesses, regional secretary Evan Abrahams said: "Our members have provided security to businesses. That's the difficulty one faces when there's a strike."

Dawood Khan, publicity secretary for the Western Cape Traders' Association, said shop owners he had met on Sunday had complained that they'd had to close their businesses early over the past week to avert disruptions by striking security guards.

Khan said the guards had used knobkierries to hit staff in the shops. He said they must have thought the staff were security guards who were not on strike.

Shop owners called the police, who assured them they were on their way, but the owners could wait no longer and closed their doors. They said they were tired of the attacks.

"We will keep the shops open and, if they loot, we will shoot," Khan said.

He said he had supported the security guards' cause, but he would not allow them to "fight their cause like this".

"If (Satawu) is not going to stop this, so many people's lives will be lost," he said.

But security guards are not the only ones who have been accused of looting.

In Nyanga on Monday, a group of about 100 looters threw bricks at shop windows and tried to break in, taking advantage of the absence of security guards.

Hussain Mohammed, the owner of a cellphone shop at the centre, said the group tried to break in at 6am and 1pm on Monday.

They had broken the windows of Dunns Clothing store about 6am. The glass was replaced, but the group broke the new window at 1pm.

"Before there were no problems here. But since the security strike, this has happened every day," Mohammed said, adding that he'd had to close his shop early every day.

Allie Hussain, owner of Bantu Clothing, said his store had been closed for the past eight days. "The problem is the security guards," he said.

When the Cape Times arrived at the scene on Monday afternoon, the windows of at least four businesses had been smashed.

Shoprite had put up a sign in its window that read: "This store is closed due to the security strike. We apologise for any inconvenience."

The manager of Shoprite refused to speak to the press.

Several members of Bambanani Against Crime have been providing security in the area, but the looting has taken place when their shifts have ended.

Thozela Manqola, of Bambanani Against Crime, said she and her colleagues worked eight-hours shifts every day and were paid by the government.

Manqola said she and her colleagues had written to the managers of Shoprite and Dunns, saying that they were prepared to work extended hours for R80 a day.

But they had not received a response.

Abrahams said he believed the police should also play their role when looting and violence occurred.

He said meetings would be held this week to discuss measures to be taken.

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