Somali shop owner Abdirazak Ahmed Mohamed says he watched helplessly as residents looted his shop in Mahube, Mamelodi. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi
Somali shop owner Abdirazak Ahmed Mohamed says he watched helplessly as residents looted his shop in Mahube, Mamelodi. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi

Xenophobic attacks spread across Tshwane

By Sakhile Ndlazi And Rapula Moatshe Time of article published Feb 22, 2017

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Pretoria - Businesses belonging to foreign nationals in Pretoria West and Mamelodi were looted on Monday night and Tuesday. This followed an outbreak of violence at the weekend when residents looted and burnt businesses and houses of foreigners.

Police spokesperson Captain Bonginkosi Msimango said the looting started at 8pm on Monday in Atteridgeville. “The situation was very tense. The looting escalated to Lotus Gardens at about 9pm, where shops were emptied out. It became uncontrollable in a short space of time, but we managed to calm the situation,” he said.

Three arrests were made after the xenophobic attacks gripped parts of Pretoria, where about 20 foreign-owned shops were looted on Monday night.

At the weekend, residents burnt down two houses believed to be drug dens and brothels operated by foreign nationals in Pretoria West.

In Mamelodi, fears were growing among Somalis after a group of people stormed three tuckshops in Mahube Section in the early hours of Tuesday and looted them.

A visibly terrified Abdirazak Ahmed Mohamed, who operated a tuckshop on Steve Biko Street, said the group came from the nearby informal settlement.

“I was inside the tuckshop when they forced their way inside. They started taking groceries. They didn’t say anything to me. I was so scared.”

The police came in the middle of the looting spree to chase the group away, he said.

“Police advised me to take out some of the groceries that were left. I took it to Pretoria West,” he said.

Mohamed said he started running a tuckshop in the area last month and didn’t have immediate plans on how he would start his small business again. “I had planned to remove my stock from the tuckshop and take it to Pretoria West to my friends because of fear of what might happen during the anti-immigrants march on Friday.”

The aftermath of a looting spree and burning of Somalian shops in Mamelodi. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi

But before he could remove his goods, the mob unexpectedly struck. “All that is left is a mattress and an empty fridge,” he said.

His friend, Abdul Ibrahim, who also owns a tuckshop, said he had heard stories of the march against foreigners on Friday. “I feel very hurt. We are afraid,” he said.

The two said they didn’t open a case with police because they were preoccupied with removing their stock.

Meanwhile, the organiser of the anti-foreigner march Makgoka Lekganyane said it was because people were tired of being “slaves” in their own country.

However, the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference and the Justice and Peace Commission called for calm and restraint amid fears that the planned march could spark xenophobic attacks.

Chairperson Bishop Abel Gabuza said: “The planned march against foreigners in Pretoria is cause for serious concern. We call for calm and restraint.”

Bishop Gabuza also condemned the recent violence and destruction to property in Pretoria West and Rosettenville. Communities should explore avenues to raise their concerns against foreign nationals instead of resorting to violence, he said. “We cannot stress enough that even in cases of extreme dissatisfaction with law enforcement and alleged criminal activities perpetrated by some foreign nationals community members should not take the law into their own hands. No grievance justifies violence against

foreigners.”

Bishop Gabuza also urged the African Diaspora Forum to work actively and closely with the SAPS to root out criminal elements among foreign nationals especially those involved in drugs and prostitution.

“We reiterate our call to the government to strengthen border controls. We also call on the intelligence community to devise more effective ways to detect and counter xenophobic violence before it flares up. Detection mechanisms must be strengthened with respect to xenophobic attacks.”

In the context of slow economic growth and increased economic inequalities in South Africa the bishop said, there was also a need to address the fierce competition for limited resources public services and economic opportunities between foreigners and the unemployed poor in South Africa.

“If this is not comprehensively addressed especially in townships and informal settlements it will generate an environment that increases the risk of xenophobic attacks.”

Pretoria News

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