Shops belonging to foreign nationals after they were looted in Soweto. File picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA).
Shops belonging to foreign nationals after they were looted in Soweto. File picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA).

Soweto resident says poverty sparked looting

By Lesego makgatho Time of article published Aug 18, 2019

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Bobbie Lemao, who’s been operating a shop in the area for about 38 years, said Sowetans had lost their grip on the township economy because they no longer had access to cash flow.

Although the situation remained calm this weekend, residents fear that as long as the socio-economic situation in the townships remains unresolved, people will go on a rampage again.

The chaos started around 6pm on Wednesday night in Rockville, where groups of locals began invading foreign-owned shops and looted their stock. The violence quickly spread to other parts of the township. This forced many shop owners to flee, leaving their shops unattended.

Lemao also bemoaned the lack of political emancipation, saying the people were angry at corrupt politicians flaunting their wealth.

“What frustrates us is that the money linked to corruption is being spent by politicians in front of everyone,” said Lemao.

“During the Struggle period, there was proper direction. These protests go a very long way back. They don’t start now. The ANC took over, we became an angry nation. This is the frustration we didn’t have back then,” said Lemao.

In the past there was no Pick n Pay and Shoprite doing business in the township, Lemao said.

“We would burn an Albany truck whenever we’d see it approaching. Not one, not two, but loads of trucks would not be seen here. We were trying to say to ourselves, ‘let’s bake our own bread and be economically dependent’.”

But now, Lemao said, “we technically gave our financial control as township people to whites without realising it”.

“We are giving them more space and protecting them against any opposition because we are angry and cannot see this anger is driving us towards supporting them (whites businesses).”

Lemao said he heard through the grapevine that there would be unrest in the area and he warned his tenant - a Pakistani shop owner next door.

“My son told me about this last week that things are going to be unsettled, not only in Rockville but around Soweto. I have been expecting it as an annual event. I then informed the Pakistani shop manager, whom I’ve rented out one of my stores to.

“We managed to move 75% of the stock worth about R700 000. It took us three loads, but that was not all of it.”

He recalled how much chaos was in the area.

“The mob was a mess.”

“The first phase is the anger of the community, the second phase is the hooliganism where fridges are stolen,” he pointed out.

Another resident, Bongani Malalane, said he welcomed foreign shop owners and didn’t have a problem with them operating in the townships, but understood the level of desperation from locals.

Malalane also complained that authorities were flouting immigrantion laws while neighbouring countries are very strict.

“This has been going on for a long time. We are angry because there’s confusion. The government needs to address people and foreigners and if they don’t address these issues, more damage will happen.

“Organisations need to come together, business owners are very exploitative. They are making a lot of money in the country.

“The only problem is that South Africans are being sidelined. We are sitting on a ticking time bomb,” he said.

While the situation in Soweto remained calm yesterday, many Pakistani shops in Protea Glen, Dobsonville, White City and Meadowlands were closed.

Police spokesperson Kay Makhubele said 18 people have been arrested for public violence and being in possession of stolen property.

Sunday Independent

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