War erupts on East Rand

Published Mar 14, 2016


Johannesburg - Parts of Katlehong, east of Joburg, resembled a war zone at the weekend with police vehicles patrolling the area after foreigners fled attacks that left a local man dead.

The aftermath of the mayhem was palpable everywhere as armed police went around the area.

All the foreign-owned shops were damaged.

The doors were gaping open. Inside, food, papers and shoes were strewn everywhere. The corrugated sheets of some of the shops were lying in a heap inside after they collapsed when looters lifted them to gain entry. Where a roof had been were just gaping holes.

In one shop, police officers were offering protection to fleeing foreigners who were busy loading their goods from their tuckshop into a bakkie. A taxi driver driving past shouted: “Go, and never return.”

Two elderly women stood nearby and watched as the foreigners loaded their fridge in the bakkie. The doors of the fridge broke, coming apart.

“What are we going to do now that they are leaving? These people help us,” one of the women said.

Spokeswoman for the provincial police Colonel Noxolo Kweza said no one knew what started the unrest but four people, including a 14-year-old boy, were injured and one man was killed.

“We also recovered a firearm in one of the spaza shops. This firearm had been reported stolen during a house robbery in 2008 in Bramley,” she said.

The grandmother of the 14-year-old said she heard that everything started when someone bought chicken from one of the foreign-owned shops, tried to return it and was hit on the head with a bottle. When people tried to intervene, the foreigners allegedly started shooting them.

The woman said her grandson, who had been hiding by a wall, watching what was going on, was shot in the process.

He is in hospital.

In Mandela informal settlement, words failed Nothayimile Makhence as she looked at her vandalised building. The 52-year-old woman was close to tears as she explained how the unrest had destroyed her only source of income. Makhence’s husband died in 2009, leaving her with their three children to raise.

On Saturday night, she and her children watched as a raging mob brandishing weapons climbed over the stall where she sells meat, damaged it, got on the roof of her shop, lifted the corrugated sheets and gained entry to the shop.

Makhence said residents pleaded with the mob, but were ignored.

When all was done, all that was left was a gaping hole where the roof had been, and fridges were lying on their side outside the shop and a damaged building.

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The Star

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