Residents allegedly looted a Spar supermarket, along with some foreign-owned shops in Samora Machel. Picture: Phando Jikelo /African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town - Police and other law enforcement agencies are on high alert following attacks on the businesses of foreign nationals in Samora Machel in Philippi, and threats of other xenophobic attacks that went viral on social media at the weekend.

The message said that every person from outside would be killed in all provinces. The sender also said there will be blood, smoke and gunfire all over the country, warning in Mpumalanga that everything will be destroyed.

Reacting to the threat of xenophobic attacks, the City’s mayoral committee member for safety and security, JP Smith, said: “We take our guidance from SAPS. If SAPS intelligence says it is a legitimate threat then we will activate our members.”

Anti-crime advocate Yusuf Abramjee said: “Over the weekend I have received at least five fake messages, including one saying that alleged terrorist (group) Boko Haram is going to (be) involved in some incidents in South Africa. Those responsible just want to cause fear and panic.

“I’m urging people to ignore these messages. We have seen lawlessness and criminality playing out in the violence that erupted and we appeal to the South African government to stop these xenophobic attacks.”

National police spokesperson Vishnu Naidoo said that police are aware of the social media posts.

"We have seen this posting on multiple platforms. While, through our interactions with the taxi industry and other stakeholders, we have not been able to have this posting validated we certainly cannot ignore it. We have alerted all provinces to be on alert to deal with any eventuality," Naidoo said.

Meanwhile, the chairperson of the Somali Community Board of SA Amir Sheikh said on a YouTube video:

“We must come together despite our differences. With blood... we will defend what we got. We will defend our property, shops and business and our dignity. We are not here courtesy of South Africans. 

“When South Africa needed us they were all assisted. We are not foreigners in an African land... Not all Nigerians are drug dealers, not all Zimbabweans are car hijackers. Please forget the ethnic division and come and solve this problem in an amicable way.”

One person died and 21 were arrested for looting on Sunday in Samora Machel after reports surfaced claiming that several foreign-owned stores in Philippi and Samora Machel had been the target of protesters.

It was understood that police raided illegal shebeens in the area and that had apparently incensed some community members, sparking the revenge attacks. Police dispersed looters with rubber bullets.

“One grocery chain store was looted in the area, as well as several smaller shops. Our members reacted swiftly to the situation and arrested 21 people for looting. One fatality has been reported and the circumstances surrounding the female victim’s death are being investigated as well as the public violence,” Police spokesperson Andre Traut said.

Foreign nationals are parking their belongings after a wave of looting spark in their shops in Samora Machel on Sunday. Video: Sisonke Mlamla/Cape Argus

In fear, foreign shop owners packed up their belongings saying they were told that “the protesters” would come back at night. Tony Weng, a shop owner, said he was devastated and feared for his life after his shop was looted and burnt down.

Weng said he was not coming back to his spot again, he would rather get another place in the CBD.

Institute for Security Studies researcher Gareth Newham said: “The recent outbreaks of violence, mostly against foreigners in the cities, are a warning sign that the government cannot afford to ignore.”

Newham said the general frustration among the population is evidenced by the growth in incidents of public disruption or violence. “The annual count at which the Public Order Policing Units have had to intervene in such incidents has increased by 376% in the past decade.

“This is almost 10 incidents every day on average, up from two per day in 2008/09.”

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Cape Argus