Immigrant-owned shops looted in St Francis Bay, closed in Humansdorp

Violence said to be sparked by murder and mob justice

Photo of shops

Immigrant-owned shops in Main Road, Humansdorp, stay closed after violence in St Francis Bay. Photo: Joseph Chirume

By Joseph Chirume

12 May 2016

Immigrant-owned businesses have been ransacked and looted in St Francis Bay, Eastern Cape, and the shopkeepers have fled.

This comes after a week of violence, apparently sparked by two murders and an assault.

First, Eyob Madamo, a 27-year-old immigrant from Ethiopia, was murdered in his shop in KwaNomzamo, Humansdorp, on 5 May.

A community member said on condition of anonymity, “When Madamo was murdered, the suspects went to rob another Ethiopian shop owner. Fortunately, they did not manage to overpower him. The shopkeeper informed his colleagues, who then called members of the [local] community.”

Working together, they hunted the suspect down and caught up with him on the Sunday.

“The suspect was also found with Madamo’s belongings. He was beaten by the mob and died,” said the community member. “The Ethiopians then tracked the suspect’s accomplice to Sea Vista.They found the suspect and beat him also … This angered the residents of Sea Vista who started attacking the foreigners, accusing them of beating up a South African national.”

What followed was a looting spree of immigrant-owned shops in Sea Vista.

SAPS spokesperson, Lieutenant Gerda Swart, confirmed the two deaths. She said that Madamo was hit with a sharp object and he passed away on the scene. The “motive of the murder is unknown and is being investigated”

Swart confirmed that a second murder happened on Sunday evening in Mtsila Street, KwaNomzamo, Humansdorp. It is alleged that a group of people assaulted the victim and he passed away in Hospital the following morning. He was Fabian Goeda.

However, she said that “at this stage there are no links to the two incidents”.

She confirmed that at least eight immigrant-owned shops were looted and ransacked, and said that public order police and the local police were patrolling the area.

On Thursday, three suspects, all men from Sea Vista, appeared on charges of public violence and malicious damage to property in the Humansdorp Magistrates’ Court. They were remanded in custody to 25 May. 

Kouga Executive Mayor Daphne Kettledas said, “We would like to appeal to our communities both in Humansdorp and in Jeffrey’s Bay to be calm and exercise patience during this difficult time. Let us allow the police to do their job and the law to take its course.”

“Things always turn ugly whenever people take the law into their own hands,” she said.

“We want to reiterate our stance of fighting against xenophobia with all our might. It is even telling that these events are happening during Africa month.”

A delegation of councillors, officials and community leaders, led by the executive mayor, visited Sea Vista on Wednesday and called for calm. The delegation is part of a Joint Operations Committee (JOC) chaired by the local SAPS.

Members from the JOC, led by the mayor, delivered condolences at the home of the Goeda family. A prayer session was held.

The JOC also invited representatives of the immigrant shop-owners and expressed condolences to them. There are plans for meetings to discuss a way towards a healing process of the community, including the reintegration of the immigrant business people.

Immigrant-owned shops remain closed in Humansdorp. The immigrant shopkeepers are said to have fled to Port Elizabeth. GroundUp was unable to reach them.