Foreign shop owners operating in Durban CBD live in fear after latest attack
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Durban - FOREIGN-OWNED shops were looted and burnt allegedly by a crowd of illegal marchers in the Durban CBD yesterday morning.
EThekwini Fire Department Operations Division commander Melvin Ramlall confirmed the brigade attended to four incidents involving fire and reports of theft in the city between 8.30am and 11am.
“Three of the incidents occurred at formal shops or formal structures and one was at a vending stall outside Woolworths in Monty Naicker (Pine) Street; two happened in the Soldiers Way area and one in the Warwick area,” said Ramlall.
This resulted in at least 80% of foreign-owned shops in the city being closed.
Police spokesperson Brigadier Jay Naicker said a group of about 30 people had gathered at King Dinuzulu Park, indicating they wanted to march to the city hall and hand over a memorandum. Police told them they would not be allowed to march. While that was happening, another group converged in the city and began looting shops.
“Reports were received of two shops as well as a stall belonging to a street vendor that were set alight. Police officers from Durban Central and Metro Police responded. They pursued the group and one suspect was arrested. He attempted to stab police officers during the arrest but was quickly subdued without any injury to any of the arresting officers. Some stolen items were recovered from the arrested suspect,” said Naicker.
He said an operation was still ongoing to identify and arrest the other perpetrators.
Naicker said a case of public violence was opened for investigation and the arrested suspect would also be charged with attempted murder.
Metro Police spokesperson Senior Superintendent Parboo Sewpersad said the group that was in the city walked into shops, threw flammable liquid and torched foreign-owned shops.
Saqab Imran owns one of the shops that were looted and set alight on Joe Slovo Street.
Imran said at about 8.30am, about 30 to 40 people entered the shop and started looting. His brother, who was in the store at the time, confronted them and they started to assault him, but he managed to flee.
“They broke things, took money and after that burnt the shop,” said Imran.
He said they lost about R40 000 cash and items worth about R200 000.
Imran said they had opened a case at the police station.
He also said it was the first time their shop was targeted.
Pakistan South Africa Association Durban president Hayat Khan said the information they received was that the group that burnt Imran’s shop also tried to loot and burn three or four more shops, but did not succeed.
“People are now living in fear. The majority of the shops are closed. They don’t know what they are going to do because the business is already affected by corona,” said Khan.
He said at least 80% of foreign-owned shops were closed after the incident.
“This is not the first time. We want, especially the mayor, to speak to the community and the authorities to put a stop to this because in most of these affected shops are South African employees. If one or two foreign nationals are working it’s because they own the place,” said Khan.
Meanwhile, Themba Mkhize of Concerned Informal Vendors Association said no vendors were at The Workshop yesterday because they were afraid after being threatened a few days ago that they would not be given permits.
Mkhize said the vendors were being used because they were vulnerable.
Transport, Community Safety and Liaison acting MEC Kwazi Mshengu said police were investigating if there was a link between the mob that was planning to cause anarchy in the city and threats by truck drivers who were also threatening to embark on an illegal protest.
Mshengu condemned the targeting of foreign-owned shops, warning that such incidents, which were tantamount to xenophobic attacks, “had no place in our society”.