Cape Town 31-03-04 Protestors burnt tyres in Elsies river protesting against a mans house who was taken down . They threw rocks at police who retaliated by shooting rubber bulletts , tear gas , stun grenades and a water canon was used to disperse the crowd Pic BRENTON geach

Polokwane - Foreigners in Ga-Sekgopo, east of Polokwane in Limpopo, have abandoned their shops after protesting villagers allegedly looted them during violence in the area.

The violence erupted after a foreign shop owner was found in possession of a cellphone belonging to a local man who was killed three weeks ago.

The discovery triggered violence as villagers demanded answers on how the shop owner got the man's phone.

Police said one of the alleged killers took the phone to the foreigner but they did not know whether it was sold to him or was brought there to be fixed.

One suspect was arrested for the murder and another handed himself to police on Sunday.

Violent protests erupted on Sunday with villagers sending all the foreigners packing and pushing them out of 11 villages in Sekgopo.

Somalian shop owners said they lived in fear as villagers issued threats to burn them alive.

One of the shop owners said he had lost his stock and would not regain the profit lost during the looting.

“We have lost our stocks, including groceries, clothes and building materials,” he said.

Other owners were worried that they were being made to pay for the sins of their fellow foreign nationals.

“It is sad because we are not even part of the cellphone scandal, but just because we are foreigners, we were included. We lived with this community for many years. We were a family, we were one of them,” he said.

Police spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Moatshe Ngoepe said police were patrolling the area.

“The situation is now calm and a case of public violence has been opened. We will continue to monitor the area,” said Ngoepe.

Ngoepe said the first suspect was arrested shortly after the murder and was released on R1000 bail.