Johannesburg - Soweto’s Snake Park was on the boil on Tuesday as police swarmed the area to protect terrified foreigners who had come under attack from a restive community.
On Wednesday morning Gauteng police said the looting of shops owned by foreign nationals had spread to other areas in Soweto.
As the foreigners left under police escort on Tuesday, fear etched on their faces and their vehicles filled to the brim with groceries and fridges, some residents standing on the side of the road watching them jeered.
With glee on their faces, the residents waved at them sarcastically and laughed. An elderly woman shouted: “Go, dogs!”
It started on Monday night, when a group of boys high on nyaope – a cocktail of drugs with a heroin base – attempted to rob a local shop.
The owner, a foreigner, took out his gun and – panicked – the would-be attackers fled.
The assailants retreated into the community and accused the shopkeepers of owning guns.
This precipitated a series of events that saw a teenager shot dead and foreigners driven out of the area.
The boys omitted to say how they had found out about the guns.
Enraged, the residents had marched to the shops and accused the foreigners of having guns and started vandalising their shops after hearing from the boys.
Mthetheleli Siphiwe Mahori, 14, was with the mob that went to one of the shops.
A resident, who preferred to remain anonymous, said that when the mob arrived at the shop, it was late at night and the owner, who was asleep at the time, thought the people outside wanted to be served. He asked them to return in the morning.
The mob apparently started stoning the shop and tried to break in. They also lifted the corrugated iron on the roof in an attempt to get in.
“The owner fired a warning shot and they fled. They returned, and continued to try to break in, and that’s when he shot again,” he said.
Mthetheleli was shot in the neck and died on the scene.
Mthetheleli’s sister, Nonhlanhla, said their father had sent the teenager on an errand that evening. But he didn’t go to where he was sent.
Nonhlanhla said Mthetheleli saw a group of people and followed them.
A while later, people knocked on their door to tell them that Mthetheleli was dead.
Another local, Lebogang Ncamla, 23, was shot three times in the left arm. He said he was returning from work when he saw a group of people fleeing. He ran with them and suddenly felt bullets piercing his skin.
On Tuesday afternoon, police officers saturated Snake Park.
Law enforcement officers were having difficulty controlling out-of-control residents who were using the boy’s death as an excuse to loot foreign-owned shops.
The police had to keep watch over the terrified foreigners as they hastily packed their goods and got out of the volatile area.
On the other side of the township, Moden Faris was packing his goods under the watchful eye of the police. The 34-year-old Ethiopian had been in his shop for only five days.
When he opened for business on Tuesday morning, he saw people passing by with goods they had just looted from shops nearby.
He quickly closed his shop. People rushed to the door, pulling at the security door, but the police arrived.
“I was so scared,” Faris said, adding he would wait until the situation calmed down before returning. “I want to work here.”
Police spokesman Lieutenant Kay Makhubela said Mthetheleli’s killer would face murder and attempted murder charges.
He added that police had arrested four foreigners found in possession of unlicensed firearms.
“We also arrested seven people who were looting the shops and vandalising them,” he added.
Makhubela said police were monitoring other areas as a precaution.
The Star and Sapa