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Old shopkeeper gutted, set alight in Soweto

A foreigner's shop at Zola 2 is looted following a shooting incident in Snake Park in Soweto where a 13-year-old was killed.115 Picture: Matthews Baloyi 2015/01/21

A foreigner's shop at Zola 2 is looted following a shooting incident in Snake Park in Soweto where a 13-year-old was killed.115 Picture: Matthews Baloyi 2015/01/21

Published Jan 22, 2015


Johannesburg - When they found him, his intestines were hanging out and his penis had been doused with paraffin and set alight.

The 74-year-old whom the residents of Durban Deep, Roodepoort, affectionately called M’dala (Old Man) had the wooden door hacked off his meagre shop and was murdered as he slept in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

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Dan Mokwena, who has lived in the area for 16 years, spoke fondly of the Malawian shopkeeper. “He was a good man who lived alone. All he had was his small shop, where he sold paraffin, sweets and some biscuits and the small corn garden he’d planted,” Mokwena said.

He was blind in one eye and partially deaf. He was an old man. There was no need to kill him like that,” said Mokwena, who added that some residents had heard the sound of someone hacking wood at about 2am.

“We feel unsafe now, because we don’t know who would do such a thing.”

The community was so shocked by the brutal murder of M’dala that they have started patrolling in groups, and held a meeting to see how they could make their area safer.

In Bramfischerville and Snake Park, looting and violence began in earlier this week after foreign nationals allegedly shot dead a teenager and injured another when a group of boys attempted to rob their shop.

The shooting sparked protests and forced some foreign shop owners to flee the area.

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Groups of young men could be seen walking around and pulling at the burglar bars of locked shops, checking how strong they were. The shops with weaker bars were looted. Such was the case with Yusuf Ahmed.

The rain falling on Ahmed’s face looked like tears.

The Somali shopkeeper stood helpless in the ruins of his store as the angry mob across the road bayed for his blood. “You must go! You must go! You must go!” they chanted in unison at Ahmed and his relatives.

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Around his African Supermarket store, tucked alongside the squatter homes in Braamfischerville, loaves of bread lay squashed, like his dreams.

Moments before, police responding to the xenophobic outbreak raging through Soweto arrested his brother for possession of an unlicensed firearm.

Unprotected, his neighbours struck: pummelling concrete slabs through the shop, eventually looting it. He and his colleagues were hurriedly packing what little was left.

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Ahmed has been here before.

In Motherwell, Khayelitsha, people had looted his shops. He narrowly escaped with his life.

He has lived in the country for 11 years, but believes his time is running out.

“Maybe I will leave this country this year for my own security. We fled from Somalia because we feared for our safety. Now, in South Africa, we are again worried about our safety. We are not safe.

“These people,” he said, gesturing towards the crowd, “they make us feel like we are not human.

“Like it’s apartheid in Soweto. We thought we had a good relationship with the community,” he said, a look of dismay on his face.

For Julia Nhlapo, there is no space for foreign-owned shops in Soweto, particularly after the shooting of a teenage boy, allegedly by a Pakistani shopkeeper, earlier this week.

“They must just leave,” she shouted in Ahmed’s direction.

“They are killing our children. We don’t want them here.”

Another, Zodwa Manana, spat: “They must go. We don’t want them in South Africa. They buy goods in bulk, sell them cheaply and our own tuckshops don’t survive. We will make sure they go.”

Constance Dhlamini refused to join some of her neighbours.

“These people are only trying to make a living,” she said, gripping her little daughter’s hand.

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