Ses’khona crowds go on looting spree
Cape Town - Bouts of xenophobic violence followed Ses’khona People’s Rights movement supporters as they clashed with Somali residents in Bellville and Philippi on Tuesday night, following their leaders’ appearance in the Bellville Magistrate’s Court.
Ses’khona supporters from Marikana informal settlement looted at least four foreign-owned shops in Philippi, and unconfirmed reports suggested that shop owners shot two people dead in retaliation.
Earlier, Bellville’s central district erupted into chaos following a brief appearance by the Ses’khona leadership in the magistrate’s court. Andile Lili, Loyiso Nkohla and seven others were convicted earlier this month of contravening the Civil Aviation Act after they upended buckets of human waste at Cape Town International Airport.
The organisation’s leadership had vowed their fight for decent sanitation facilities, which is at the heart of their so-called “poo protests”, would continue even if they had to spend the next 250 years behind bars.
Outside the court, supporters sang and danced; the crowd separated from the courthouse by a line of policemen and two imposing Nyalas parked at the entrance.
However, things turned violent as supporters began making their way back to the train station at around 2pm.
They began throwing stones, allegedly targeting Somali residents in Durban Road. Police, fearing that protesters might loot, responded by setting off stun grenades.
A large contingent of police converged on the crowd and began shepherding them towards the station.
By 3pm, most of the supporters had boarded trains and gone, and police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel André Traut said there had been no serious incidents of violence to report.
However, when the supporters arrived home, they began looting and rioting in Philippi.
Ses’khona spokesman Sithembele Majova said the movement condemned the looting, but that the Somalis had instigated the conflict.
“The people of Ses’khona condemn the looting that took place. It didn’t take place on our behalf,” Majova said. “But on the other side, we have to look at what made people angry towards Somalis.”
He said that as crowds gathered in Bellville ahead of their leaders’ court appearance, Somalis had attacked a woman and thrown bottles at the crowd.
“This was not a xenophobic attack at all, but when the people of Marikana were out to support Ses’khona leaders as they appeared in court today, they were attacked by Somalis in Bellville.”
Majova said that Somalis on the upper floors of a building had thrown bottles onto the Ses’khona supporters, as well as targeting a woman. “The Somalis just attacked a lady from Marikana. That lady suffered many dangerous injuries.
“When people got back to the townships, they were so angry. We don’t encourage attacks on shops but the Somalis did a very bad thing by attacking that woman. They were the main instigators.”
Traut said police were deployed to Lower Crossroads in Philippi East, to “maintain law and order during acts of public violence perpetrated by a group of individuals aimed at foreign-owned shops in the area”.
There had been reports of people shot dead, but those could not be confirmed, he said. “Reports of two males who were allegedly shot by foreign shop keepers were received, however the victims are yet to be traced. The exact extent of the situation is yet to be determined and although arrests have been made, the numbers will only be released at a later stage.”
Traut said that police would remain on the scene until the situation had stabilised.
Earlier in court, sentencing proceedings continued for the nine members who could face up to 30 years behind bars under the Civil Aviation Act.
Ses’khona’s lawyer, Pearl Mathibela, said taking into account the nature of their possible sentence, a pre-sentence report – which requires a correctional services officer to interview the convicted members – needed to be compiled.
The magistrate postponed the case until April 16 to allow for this report to be completed. Lili and Nkohla, who was dressed in the same red camouflage outfit he had worn on Monday, seemed unfazed.
Together with the other convicted members – Yanga Mjingwana, Ben Dyani, Jaji Diniso, Bongile Zanazo, Thembela Mabanjwa, Bantubakhe Mgobodiya and Wandisile Mkapa – they will now have to be interviewed one by one and asked, among other things, how a prison sentence might affect the lives of their families.
They smiled as they emerged from the courtroom where hundreds of supporters had gathered chanting their names. – Additional reporting by Cindy Waxa