Posted on January 28, 2015

Xenophobic Looting Spreads to Langlaagte and Alexandra

Gia Nicolaides and Thando Kubheka, Eyewitness News, January 25, 2015

Residents at an informal settlement in Langlaagte have told Eyewitness News how a foreign shop owner randomly started shooting at community members after he suspected that someone had stolen from his store.

Gauteng police say xenophobic looting has spread overnight to Langlaagte and Alexandra.

Police discovered the bodies of two South African men with gunshot wounds in Langlaagte late last night after a foreign-owned shop was looted and another burnt down.

There’s nothing left inside the paza shop, just a fridge that’s been thrown out and most of the goods in the store burnt.

Blood can also be seen on the street where police discovered one of the two bodies.

The other was found in an informal settlement just across the road.

A man says the foreign shop owner started shooting, saying he’d been robbed.

“I asked him ‘why you killed my brother? there is the blood lying there,’ when I came nearby, he shot at me also.”

Police say they’re investigating a case of arson and murder.

The police’s Solomon Makgale says officers were also called out to Alexandra this morning.

“There was an attempt to rob a spaza shop in Alexandra and we managed to prevent that from happening. But a few minutes later, we were called again and we found a spaza shop on fire.”

Meanwhile, the situation in Soweto and Kagiso remains calm and of 178 people who’ve been arrested since last week, 90 of them are expected to appear in court today.

A civil society group says it’s worrying and perplexing as to why government refuses to acknowledge that xenophobia remains a problem in the country.

The African Diaspora Forum has written an open letter to President Jacob Zuma raising concerns over the recent spate of violence in Soweto and surrounding areas.

Violence and looting broke out in Soweto last week and spread to other areas in Gauteng after the killing of a 14-year-old boy who was accused of trying to rob a foreign-owned shop.

The shop owner allegedly shot and killed the teen and will appear in court soon.

Authorities haven’t labelled the violence as xenophobia-related.

The forum’s Jean-Pierre Lukamba says government needs to do more to ease tensions.

“We are saying that they must take a robust measure to make sure the attacks stop.”

At the same time, foreign shop owners in the township say returning to their home countries is not an option.

They say they’ve built better lives for their families here in South Africa.

A man from the Arab Migrant Community has a message for the people of Soweto.

“We would like to apologise to South Africans and Sowetans.”

He says the his community is willing to work together with community leaders to end the recent violence.

“We’re here to live together. We come in peace back to Soweto.”

Some foreign business owners say although they’ve been affected by the attacks, they’re willing to forgive the people, go back and start afresh.

Gauteng Premier David Makhura says he stands in solidarity with foreign shop owners.

Makhura spoke to immigrants in Mayfair on Saturday. He says everyone who lives in this country legally should be respected.

“You country of origin doesn’t matter. As long as you have come into our country lawfully, legally, you live and breathe, you wake up following the laws of our country, we will respect you.”

Hundreds of foreign nationals have taken refuge in Mayfair following the Soweto unrest.