AFRICANGLOBE – Foreign nationals want the South African government to help them following attacks and looting of their shops in Soweto, they said on Thursday.
“The government must help us. We have been attacked and left with nothing,” said Temesgon Worku, from Ethiopia.
“Our brothers have no food or clothes. If the government does not want us they must tell us. We will go to countries that will accept us.”
He said locals had robbed them and chased them out of the area.
“They called us makwerekwere and said we must leave. We do not feel safe anymore,” he said.
Makwerekwere is slang for foreigner.
Foreign-owned shops were looted on Monday after a shopkeeper allegedly shot dead 14-year-old Mthetheleli Siphiwe Mahori, who was part of a group allegedly robbing foreign-owned shops in Snake Park.
The violence spilled over to Braamfischerville overnight.
Worku said two of his relatives were arrested while trying to defend themselves.
“They had a panga and their attackers were armed with guns. The police arrested them and left the armed attackers.”
A local resident, Paul Mogale, said foreigners helped pensioners by giving them groceries on credit.
“They provide a service for pensioners, but for young people they ruin their lives by selling them drugs,” he claimed.
Mogale claimed he had seen boys as young as 14 buying drugs from foreigners.
“The boys are regulars at their shop.”
Gauteng police said over 60 people had been arrested in connection with the violence. Some of them would appear in the Protea Magistrate’s Court on Thursday.
At the court, foreign nationals stood in groups under trees in the court yard. Locals filled the two court rooms where the cases were being heard.
Violence Not Xenophobic: MEC
This week’s violence and looting against foreign shop owners in Soweto was not xenophobic, Gauteng’s community safety MEC said on Thursday.
Two people have been shot dead since violence broke out between locals and foreigners in Snake Park on Monday.
“The actions are pure criminality… For now we won’t declare it xenophobic attacks,” Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane told reporters in Johannesburg.
Nkosi-Malobane said the attacks were sporadic and being carried out by a group of young people who moved from area to area.
“Unfortunately sometimes they’re joined by adults,” she said.
Earlier, Gauteng provincial police commissioner Lt-Gen Lesetja Mothiba said reinforcements had been sent to control the situation.
An operations centre had been established to co-ordinate police operations in the area.
Police were working with community policing forums and other government leaders to calm the situation.
The looting of foreign shops started on Monday after 14-year-old Mthetheleli Siphiwe Mahori was shot dead, allegedly by a foreign shop owner in Snake Park.
Eighty-one foreign shops had been looted since Monday.