Airtime voucher leads to xenophobic fury

2013-08-18 14:00

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Foreign shop owners told to leave

An expired R10 airtime voucher and a death that never happened sparked an explosion of xenophobic violence in Duduza on the East Rand this week.

The trouble started on Thursday afternoon when Tebello Twala (22) bought an airtime voucher for his uncle Lebogang Rantla (30) at a Somali-owned shop.

Twala told City Press yesterday that the voucher would not load and a call to the service provider revealed that it had expired.

He said that when they returned to the shop to query their purchase, the shop owner produced a gun and fired.

“After shooting at us, another Somali man took the gun and chased us around the block. We hid in one of the gardens until he left,” said Twala.

“I did not see what happened after the ambulance took us to the hospital. All I want to know is that they will face justice,” said Twala, whose nose was grazed by the bullet which hit his shoulder, exited through his back and hit Rantla in the chest.

The rumour spread through Duduza like wildfire: Twala was dead.

But he was not, and as he was being transported to hospital – from which he was discharged on Friday – angry residents were going to every foreign-owned shop in Duduza, ordering shopkeepers to leave or die.

Ethiopian shop-owner Kebede Wolde (28), who has owned his KW Tuck Shop for seven years, said he could not believe how “politely” he was asked to leave.

“This is xenophobia. Why would everyone take their anger out on every other foreigner? They targeted foreign shops who knew nothing about this mess. This is criminal and people have taken advantage of a sad situation to steal and loot,” said Wolde.

Ethiopian Ramadan Ibro (28) said he saw school children and teachers from the area carrying rocks, bottles and steel rods as they moved from shop to shop.

Rumours of Tebello Twala’s death sparked a wave of xenophobic violence in Duduza. He was shot, allegedly by a Somali shop owner, butwas discharged from hospital the following day. Picture: Lucky Nxumalo/City Press

“Actually I did not lose anything because they asked me to take my stock. I was lucky. Had the residents who have known me for years not asked me to take my stock, I would have lost close to R500 000,” said Ibro.

Bishop Adane Ashamo of the Wongel Amagnoch Church in Dunnottar, a few kilometres from Duduza, was holding a prayer with about 100 foreign shop owners outside the church when City Press visited yesterday.

Ashamo said more than 400 shop owners and their families were now sleeping at the church. Many were too afraid to return to Duduza.

Back in the township, residents were divided in their opinions of the foreigners.

“I would rather walk 20 minutes to buy a loose cigarette than buy from those people again. We don’t want them back. They make life easier because their shops are close by, but to shoot someone over airtime is ridiculous,” said Bheki Mpofu, who still believed Twala had died.

But Thabo Nduli said not everyone was angry at foreigners. “They will be back, but only after the anger dies down.”

Also on Thursday, a house belonging to local ward councillor Thabo Silas Letsimo was burned down. But this, residents said, was not linked to the shooting.

The people who torched Letsimo’s home were allegedly unhappy about being evicted from land they illegally occupied.

The police’s Captain Johannes Ramphora said the two incidents caught them by surprise.

The Somali shopkeeper has been charged with possessing an unlicensed firearm and attempted murder. He is due to appear in the Nigel Magistrates’ Court tomorrow.

Five people have been arrested in connection with the torching of Letsimo’s property.

Said Ramphora: “We are trying to keep the peace and (we) have deployed the public order policing unit to monitor the situation.”

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.