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Foreign shops looted in Mbekweni

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Residents burn and loot shops after meeting fails to resolve land issue

Photo of burned spaza shop
Foreign-owned shops were burned and looted last night in Mbekweni. Photo: Sabelo Mpana
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Several foreign-owned shops were looted and one was torched last night in Mbekweni, Paarl, after a community meeting.

The shop of Somali national Abdulle Mahamuud in A Block was set alight. Several shops in D-Block, including that of Ethiopian national John Manoma, were looted, as residents moved from one part of the township to another, staying one step ahead of the police who were trying to prevent further looting.

In some areas, such as H Block, Thembani and Phola Park, the shops were left untouched. In Phola Park, community members formed a shield outside the foreign-owned shops to protect them.

“I have lost everything,” said Manoma today. “My brother was in the shop when the people attacked him. I just arrived here now and everything is gone. I am not sure why we are attacked.”

“I am just happy that my brother is not injured in what was happening here. This thing is very bad, what the people are doing,” he said.

The attacks followed a report-back by the backyard dwellers’ to the community after a two-hour meeting with municipal officials. The meeting, held at the municipal offices in Paarl, was closed to reporters.

Reporting back to residents at the taxi rank, committee members complained that the municipality would not work with the committee. Residents vowed to rebuild their shacks on empty land from which they had been evicted during the wekeend.

Reverend Thembekile Mangena of the backyard dwellers’ committee appealed to residents not to destroy municipal buildings.

South African Civic Organisation (SANCO) member Siyabulela Mandyoli said: “We told them that the land in Erf 557 belongs to the backyard dwellers. We were asked to give records of what we were saying. We told them they are the ones with the resources, they must look through their offices for the reports.”

Chairperson Quincy Bhongo said: “Our people will carry on building their shacks as we are not invading but moving into our own land.”

Masentle Lakaje said the attacks on foreign nationals were “totally wrong”.

“The foreign nationals have nothing to do with the municipality. The people who are attacking the shops are criminals. The leaders of the community must control the people.”

Drakenstein municipality Executive Mayor Conrad Poole said in a statement the meeting had ended without resolution. “The representatives insisted that the piece of land under discussion should be handed over to them. The municipality cannot do that and must at all times act in accordance with national and provincial legislation regarding these matters.”

He said he had suggested another meeting this week. Officials would look for the paper work referred to by the residents, he said. “For the time being, erf 557 remains earmarked for mixed development,” said Poole.

Police spokesperson Andre Traut said municipal property and vehicles had been vandalised and spaza shops looted. Two people had been arrested.

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