A South African family’s business was reduced to ashes over the weekend. Opportunistic criminals are believed to have maximised on violent xenophobic chaos in Malvern, Johannesburg, when they torched Salbro Auto car dealership. 
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Durban - RIZWAN Farooqui is a Pakistani national who has been living in South Africa for 23 years and, although he was not born here, he feels as much South African as any other local.

But in the wake of the latest xenophobic attacks, the former spokesperson for the Pakistani Association in South Africa said many people were living in fear and planned to leave the country.

“They do not feel safe anymore, which is sad. We contribute to the economy just like every other citizen. We are taxpayers. We work hard and we obey the law, yet our lives are threatened,” said Farooqui, who is also the Durban spokesperson for the Muhajir Qaumi Movement (a secular political party in Pakistan).

“When Nelson Mandela was around, this didn’t happen. We were happy and felt welcome, but not anymore.”

Dr Akhtar Hussain, the association’s current chairperson, said he was confident the government would resolve the matter.

Tushar Das, the president of the Bengali Association of SA, added that they were also scared.

“When they are in the thick of it, the mob doesn’t care, they just rampage. You don’t have to just be a small business owner, you just have to be foreignHow can we justify this behaviour or tell people to come and start new lives here? We expect and deserve more from the leadership We must rally and fight against acts of xenophobia.”

Speaking on behalf of China City’s management, Xiao Hong said they feared the attacks in Johannesburg would reach Durban. “We saw the pictures and were terrified so management and tenants met to address the fear.”

He said additional security was hired on Monday and asked that police increase patrols. Although appreciative of the additional support, he feared it was not enough.

Yasmin Rajah, the director of the NGO, Refugee Social Services, said in July many foreign-owned small businesses in Richards Bay were burned. Today their families remain displaced.

“Even some of my own staff are living on edge. They use taxis, they walk the streets, they have children and they fear they could be attacked, just because they are foreigners.”

She said unemployment, poverty, and political instability were among the factors contributing to the attacks.

“When you monitor what is happening there is a sense the crime and looting are planned. So where is the police intelligence? People are not feeling protected. My question is, when foreign nationals are gone, who is next? Will it be a particular race group? Or a particular cultural group?”

She said the attacks were not just a policing, government or NGO matter.

“We all need to condone it.”

On Sunday, South African businessman Abdullah Salajee’s 29-year-old family-owned car dealership in Malvern, Johannesburg, was burned to the ground. Two cars were stolen.

“My father and his brother started a business, first a small supermarket and then the car business. They worked hard from scratch. My elder brother and I later joined the business, Salbro Auto, after we finished school. We run it with our partner, Ravi Moodley.

“We left the dealership on Friday, locked up and planned to return on Monday. But we came back to rubble and ashes. We have no insurance. Everything we have was in this dealership.”

He said the culprits, who he referred to as “criminal opportunists”, knew they were South Africans.

Salajee said most dealerships in the area had since moved vehicles elsewhere, fearful they would also be attacked.

The Right2Know Campaign said it was a “national shame” xenophobic violence had become a regular feature of the country’s political landscape. The SA Human Rights Commission said it recognised the social, economic and political factors which gave rise to the unrest.

In a statement, the Government Communication and Information System said no amount of grievance or unhappiness could justify the looting of shops, destruction of properties, and the illegal blocking of roads. “Such acts constitute a criminal offence and the law enforcement agencies must respond without any fear or favour.”

Seventy arrests were made in Gauteng for violence and looting of shops in Ekurhuleni, Tshwane and the Johannesburg CBD.

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