Pretoria - Some foreign shop owners in Mamelodi have started packing up and leaving the township, saying they feared for their lives.
A number of shops owned by foreign nationals closed at the weekend after the circulation of a message which stated that next Saturday was the deadline for them to leave.
Business owner Jamal Mahmoud said: “Our brothers are fearing for their lives. Some shops are closed in anticipation of what’s going to happen on Saturday (September 8).”
Numerous videos doing the rounds on social media have supposedly been exposing fake and spoilt produce sold in foreign-owned businesses.
But more disturbing was a WhatsApp message reading: “ every South African who has rented their garage to Somalians for spaza shops must chase them out or else the house and spaza shop will be burnt on Saturday the 8th of September. Forward this message to all South Africans who have Somalians in their backyard. Their lives and kids are in danger.”
Mamelodi West police spokesperson Captain Johannes Maheso said they were keeping their ears on the ground.
Mahmoud said he came to South Africa as a 27-year-old many years ago hoping to live in peace and make money.
Now he felt his life was in danger, along with those of other foreign shop owners.
His landlord said not all foreign-owned spaza shops sold expired and counterfeit products.
“People always buy lots of items from Mahmoud; no one has experienced any problem here.”
But the landlord too feared for his life after reading the message.
“I told Mahmoud that we must take a break until this thing has blown over. Prevention is better than cure,” he said.
Last Friday, police conducted a raid in Pretoria West, known for its high concentration of foreign-owned shops. A team of multisectoral law enforcement agencies also raided several businesses.
The officers discovered washing powder and condoms that expired years ago.
National Consumer Commission spokesperson Trevor Hattingh said the raids were part of law enforcement agencies’ efforts to conduct compliance inspections and to “clarify the government’s stance on issues raised by communities to business”.
But chairperson of the Somali Association of SA, Shukri Dies, said the government was not doing enough to protect them.
“The government says we are welcome here, but that is not the truth. These people will take everything and take your life. We are outcasts,” he said.
Dies said Africans were a long way off of uniting and needed to be conscious.
The Chinese were also accused of selling counterfeit goods, but their shops were not looted, Dries said.