We will stand and fight, foreigners vow after looting
Ethiopian spaza owners vow to protect what little they have left after locals go on violent looting spree in Cape town
Ethiopian spaza shop owners in the Western Cape town of De Doorns say they are ready for a “last stand” after xenophobic violence left three foreigners in hospital.
On Tuesday and Wednesday night, residents of the impoverished Stofland informal settlement closed the N1 during protests over foreigners reportedly taking farm jobs in the Hex River Valley.
De Doorns police commander Colonel Adri Kriel said the protests quickly escalated into looting of foreign-owned shops and damage to private property in the town centre. A general convenience store was broken into and plundered while other shops and an ATM were smashed.
“You could see at the start there were people who were singing songs and voicing their grievances, but then people came who you could see weren’t here to protest over work,” said Kriel.
On Tuesday evening police came under attack from a crowd hurling rocks. Passing vehicles on the N1 were also attacked, and police were forced to close the highway.
Groups of up to 500 people went to the working-class community of De Doorns Oos and attacked spaza shops belonging to foreigners, said Kriel. The owners said they lost stock worth between R50,000 and R150,000.
In the De Doorns town centre on Thursday, a group of Ethiopian traders at a warehouse next to a Bangladeshi-owned electronics store said they did not want the news of xenophobic attacks to spread.
“When people from other communities see what happened to us it will spread to places like Worcester. Two weeks ago it was in Johannesburg,” said Tesefaye Aberea, the owner of a looted shop.
Meanwhile, he said the Ethiopians were ready for a last stand. “We have everything prepared. We will fight here. We don’t have anything left,” said Aberea, who blamed the police for abandoning them.
“They tell us to just leave everything and run,” he said.
Another shopkeeper, Amane Nuguse, said: “We don’t fight, we don’t steal, we just do business. Why are they [South Africans] doing this? If those people are hungry, the president of this country must help them. We are not the president of this country.”
Kriel said law-abiding residents of De Doorns Oos patrolled the streets on Wednesday night and Thursday morning in an attempt to keep order and prevent violence and looting. Three people had been arrested.
During nationwide xenophobic attacks in 2008 and 2009, De Doorns was a hot spot for violence against foreigners, and in 2012 and 2013 there were huge violent protests over farmworkers' wages.
Kriel said the events of the past few days were “a new story”. Asked whether farmers were illegally employed foreigners, he said he believed they were complying with the law on work permits.
“The locals believe that the foreign nationals are taking their jobs. There are a lot of foreigners working on the farms,” he said.