Somali shops attacked

By Caryn Dolley

Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa and Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu flew into the Western Cape on Monday to assess xenophobic attacks as foreign shopkeepers were threatened and forced from their stores, which were looted.

Scores of mainly Somalis from informal settlements around the Western Cape spent the night at police stations as they were too scared to return to their homes.

They were targeted a day after the World Cup ended, as had been rumoured.

Mthethwa's spokesman, Zweli Mnisi, said he had gone to Mbekweni in Paarl and had established that criminals using xenophobia as a guise were behind the lootings.

Sisulu vowed that anybody who targeted foreigners would be "dealt with" and that the army would help police: "Opportunistic criminals must know that we will deal with them harshly, there is no way we will allow them to spread fear and crime. We are working very hard to find them and prosecute them."

On Monday in Khayelitsha police officers fired rubber bullets at residents after foreign shop owners were threatened and their shops ransacked.

Heavily armed officers had to escort foreigners, their belongings crammed into bakkies, to the police station.

Residents then trashed their empty shops.

"These people called us 'makwerekwere' and said we must go home. They said no one from another land is going to stay here. They got into my shop and took away my stuff. In 2008 (during the initial outbreak of xenophobic violence in the Western Cape) I was forced out of Wesbank. Now I'm being forced from here.

"There is fighting in Somalia but I'll rather go back there than be here," shopkeeper Ali Mohamed Husein said.

Another Khayelitsha store owner, Abduragman Alikar, said his shop was "torn down".

"They took everything and I don't have a shop any more. I must stay at the police station now," he said.

Nearby, officers stood guard and sometimes aimed their guns at residents who started forming groups around a Somali-run store.

"I'm scared they're going to hurt me. I'm not feeling okay. I was told that if I don't leave here I will be attacked," a trembling Abdulla Muhamed, 19, said outside his friend's shop, the Woza Woza store, which residents had tried to loot.

Residents had thrown stones at the shop. Police had then fired rubber bullets.

The shop's owner, Muhammed Husein, had run from the shop after being threatened earlier in the day. His friends milled around.

"Muhammed, are you okay? Where are you?" a friend could be heard saying as he left a message on Husein's phone.

Another of his friends had arranged for a bakkie into which his goods were piled. When the crammed bakkie was driven to the nearby police station, officers clung on to the back of it clutching their guns.

Husein then returned to the shop to help clear it.

"These people think work is difficult. But I know how to make business. If they let me back, I'll come," he said as he and policemen packed crates of meat, bread and juice onto the bakkie.

Freezers were then carried out. Just before Muhammed Husein left under heavy police escort, a number of his neighbours waved sadly.

"This is so unfair. I don't know why my people are doing this," a woman muttered.

As soon as the police and the Somalis had left for the police station, a group of residents ran to the locked up and nearly bare shop.

They tore down the front walls, made of corrugated iron, ripped the locked security gate off its hinges and

even stole the door.

Then, young men went inside with hammers and started damaging the interior while children stole single potatoes and scattered coffee granules on the floor as other residents watched.

A number of other foreign-owned shops in Khayelitsha either stood open and bare or were locked up.

Earlier on Monday Franschhoek police station spokeswoman Marize Papier said all the foreign-owned stores in two informal settlements there had been closed.

She said on Sunday night 11 Somalis and 20 Malawians had stayed there after their shops were looted and last night they stayed in a church.

Provincial police spokesman Frederick van Wyk said foreign-owned shops were looted in areas including Paarl, Klapmuts and Nyanga.

Police and soldiers were deployed to the areas. He said seven men were also arrested in Nyanga and charged with public violence.

Daniella Ebenezer, Local Government Department spokeswoman, said the situation was being closely monitored and joint operation centres in the province were co-ordinating operations.

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