Pretoria - Looting of shops owned by foreign nationals amid service delivery protests in Mamelodi East’s Phomolong settlement this week has sent ripples of fear among the shopkeepers, who have just recently returned to the area after being forced out a few months ago.
Some Somali shopkeepers were woken up after midnight on Wednesday by large crowds of residents on a rampage following three days of protests.
Protests began as early as 3am on Monday and continued non-stop into on Thursday, with protesters burning tyres and blocking roads.
“It was only a matter of time before they zoomed in on the foreigners, who are always a target when things go wrong,” resident Elijah Sangweni said.
Four shops were looted in quick succession, one after the other, leaving the shopkeepers cowering inside as their stock and other possessions were stolen.
Protesters continued to mill around on Thursday. Roads into the informal settlement were blocked with huge rocks and access by vehicles restricted.
“They have not come out of their shops all morning, they are so scared,” said Ibrahim Shurie of the Pretoria Foreign Nationals body.
After walking across the length and breadth of the settlement and checking up on his countrymen, Shurie said they were terrified and extremely worried that they would be attacked and injured if the protests continued.
“They were innocent bystanders during the last protest action which saw over 100 shops cleaned out. It is likely to happen again,” he said.
More than 300 Somali nationals fled the settlement when groups of young people ran riot and broke into their shops and carted off everything inside.
In three weeks of the rampage, more than 100 shops were cleared of fridges, stock, shelves, sinks and personal effects. Three people died and several more injured, and shop owners recounted insults and xenophobic slurs hurled at them during beatings.
Those attacks started on the heels of service delivery protests.
Some residents said the young people needed to continue on the momentum created by the protests because they had not calmed down from the excitement of demonstrating.
On Thursday, the police denied knowledge of the lootings, and said unless a case was reported with them they could neither confirm nor deny any criminal activity.