Why foreign shops were targeted
Zamdela residents say foreign shop owners were targeted during this week’s protests because they do not give back to the community.
Zakia Motloung, who sells fruit, vegetables and sweets at a street corner in the township, said Somali, Bangladeshi and Pakistani shop owners don’t assist the communities from which they make money.
“Other shop owners assist when there are funerals around the neighbourhood and we protected them when people were looting this week,” Motloung told City Press.
He said foreign shop owners did not pay taxes or contribute to community initiatives, such as sponsoring local sports teams and schools.
“The profits made by the foreign nationals are enjoyed in their countries,” Motloung said.
As if to show that he was not xenophobic, Motloung shares the modest space from which he sells with a Mozambican national from Beira, who is the local shoemaker.
Motloung said the reason foreign-owned shops were looted is because the owners live a good life but did not join the protests like other Zamdela residents.
“They took our shops, but they don’t want to help us. They don’t even help the people in the townships in which they live,” he said.
Motloung said to show that looting was not the motive behind the protests, residents responded positively to a plea by the community radio station, Karabo FM, to clean up the streets on Wednesday.
“We did this because we wanted to show that our protest was noble,” Motloung added.
Echoing the common thread of the protests, he said Free State Premier Ace Magashule was not in a position to think for Zamdela residents.
“We are trying to fight poverty, but Ace is increasing it by merging the municipalities,” Motloung said.
He said the merger of the Metsimaholo and Ngwathe municipalities would also increase crime.
Motloung’s friend, John Mazwi, agreed: “Ace caused this problem, no other person.”
Magashule has been warned to come to Zamdela and prove to residents that the proposed merger has been cancelled or risk another round of violent protests, according to another resident, Mohau Mokoena.
Motloung claimed: “No son will have control over his father. Parys wants to lord it over Sasolburg, but it’s small.”
But Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Richard Baloyi blamed the violence on criminal elements, claiming they had hijacked a genuine community protest to “spice it up”.
According to the Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in SA, the past weeks’ xenophobic attacks on foreign shop owners were not the first to have taken place in the townships.
In May 2010, more than 1 000 residents looted 11 foreign-owned businesses for two nights after a Somali national stabbed a local man.
Some foreign shop owners have been targets of similar violence on three occasions in other parts of the country.
They had relocated to Sasolburg in an effort to escape such violence.
Free State police spokesperson Colonel Motantsi Makhele said 23 people were arrested this week for possession of stolen property.
The group appeared at the Sasolburg Magistrates’ Court on Thursday and were remanded into custody, according to Makhele.
“They’ll appear again tomorrow and on Thursday because it’s a large group,” he said.