South Africa: Immigrant-Owned Shop Saved By Residents, Later Looted

People run away after looting a store owned by immigrants (file photo).

Looting of immigrant-owned shops continued on Friday in the Strand area. GroundUp reported earlier how the L'Gra shop in Greenfields, Lwandle, had been protected by the community from looting on Thursday. But on Friday, it fell victim too. At least three shops were looted.

The owner, who does not want to be named, fled to the local police station overnight. Residents who had been looking after the shop left after seeing that the situation seemed calm. But less than 20 minutes later, the shop was emptied by looters.

Mnyamezeli Nkalitshana said, "We guarded the shop with our sticks and we thought it was calm ... The shop was assisting people like me who are not permanently employed. I would go and borrow groceries, and when I find a gardening job, I pay it back. This will bring hunger to many of us and the people who did this are not from our area."

The shop owner, a Somali immigrant, told GroundUp: "I was very happy when they managed to stop the looting, but I didn't think they would manage to watch over the shop until this thing ends."

He opened the shop in 2007 with his older brother. "I live there with my three brothers and we have all run away because we are scared. We were selling groceries and sometimes gave people without money to pay later, because we all live here together helping each other," he said.

This is not the first time he has had to flee. "There was a year when we had to stay away from the township for close to a month because there were violent protests and our shops were targeted. Four times now I count this is happening to me."

"I escaped death in Somalia and found a home here in South Africa. I know there are nice people who want to live with us. It is just the few who want us gone. I hold no grudges against anyone and will forgive the people because anger takes away peace," he said.

Some shop owners were escorted by police to the N2 where they were driven to safety.

Protests in the Strand area started on Monday after shacks were demolished by the Red Ants. Leaders of the land occupation have condemned the destruction and looting of shops. Roads were blocked and schools have remained closed over safety considerations.

Colonel Xolani Williams of Lwandle police station said, "My police officers are stretched out to the whole area. Some come late because of the road closures as they are based in Grabouw and Khayelitsha. We cannot attend to complaints on time."

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