South Africa: Fear Everywhere As Foreigners Flee

Ferial Haffajee (file photo).

While it was safe by the time I arrived in Mayfair's Somalian hub, the panic was still palpable. Absa and FNB were closed; so was Nando's and every other store on Albertina Sisulu. The buzz was gone; the place felt abandoned.

My hood in Mayfair and Fordsburg is a mecca for migrants. Usually, it's buzzing Monday to Monday with traders vying for a slice of a lucrative destination and drive-by trade. On this Monday, September 2, as the looting ricocheted across Johannesburg as armed gangs of young men marched, there was something other than its usual mood in the air. It's fear, not something I often see in a place into which at least 20 different migrant communities have arrived to call home since 1994, when the enclave apartheid state gave way to the more open borders of a democratic government.

Shutters and panic

Shutters came down on all the shops in the area, both local and foreign-owned, as two taxis of looters attempted an attack on a local Shoprite and on the Amal shopping centre, which is the hub from which the Somalian community trucks goods into the hinterland.

As writer Jonny Steinberg has written, Somalian entrepreneurs have fanned...

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