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Foreigners living in fear – two shops belonging to Somalis petrol-bombed

Storyline:National News

Foreigners in townships and informal settlements around Durban are living in fear after several attacks on Somali shopkeepers in KwaMashu.

On Tuesday two shops owned by foreigners were attacked and petrol-bombed in KwaMashu. Similar attacks have taken place in nearby Inanda.

These attacks were preceded by threats that foreigners would be driven out of the townships for “taking over businesses, jobs and even women”.

Many parts of South Africa were ravaged by xenophobic attacks in 2008, when scores of foreigners were killed or injured and forced to flee.

A few weeks ago a group calling itself Abahwebi baKwaMashu – local KwaMashu traders – sent threatening letters to the landlords of Somalis in the township and Inanda, informing them that they should evict their tenants or else the group would forcefully kick them out.

The group accused foreigners, particularly Somalis, of “destroying local businesses and putting out of business people who had traded for decades under harsh conditions”.

None of the members of the Abahwebi baKwaMashu could be located yesterday.

But, among other things, their letter stated: “As the organisation of traders from KwaMashu, we have taken a decision that we as the traders do not need competition from foreigners.

“No one has a right to trade without having consulted the organisation.

“We give you until 30 November 2014 for the tenants to evacuate the premises. We will be happy if you work with us in this regard.”

Haroon Kader, one of the Somali traders in Durban who arrived in South Africa eight years ago, said he was trading legally after obtaining a trading permit from the Department of Home Affairs.

“We are being attacked for being foreigners, for bringing affordable goods to township residents. I have had to close my shop in Inanda because of this. This is sad because it is our own African brothers who are doing this to us,” Kader said.

Nosipho Shandu, manager of the Durban-based Refugee Centre, said the government must act swiftly to nip the xenophobic attacks in the bud before they escalate.

“We are against attacks on foreigners. We must not blame other people for our own failures. Many of these foreigners are creative and brave to invest their money in areas like KwaMashu.

“They often open shops that were closed a long time ago,” Shandu said.

KwaZulu-Natal MEC for safety and security Willies Mchunu condemned the attacks. A meeting between concerned KwaMashu traders, the police and government officials is scheduled to take place in KwaMashu today.

Source : Sowetan