London riots: SA shop attacked

2011-08-09 11:08

A South African-owned Wimpy in Clapham Junction in Twickenham, London, was badly damaged when looters attacked the restaurant last night. “It’s like a war there,” South African owner Odile Ham told City Press.

Her son, Michael, added: “The whole area looked like a tornado went through there.”

Caught in the middle of what has been described as the worst violence seen in the British capital city in recent years, Ham said the young thugs came down the street and smashed everything in their way.

“Our biggest fear was that a fire would break out. We have tenants upstairs from the Wimpy. When we drove to the restaurant to see what was going on we were faced with people on the rampage in the street. It was a bit scary and we got out of there. People on the rampage do not think about what they are doing.”

Ham said all the shops around her Wimpy, which she opened two years ago, were damaged. The looters ripped out the ATM from the bank across the street and stripped a local newsstand of everything, including its lottery machine.“The area is now a crime scene and we cannot get close as police are conducting their investigations. I do not know what the extent of the damage is,” she said telephonically.

“We’ve always felt safe in London.”

She said the rioters were everywhere and that made it difficult for police to quell the protests. Metropolitan police announced earlier today that some 13 000 police officers had been deployed in areas such as Tottenham and Liverpool.

South African Martin Pienaar, an accountant for Virgin Management, said in his five years in London he had not seen anything like the riots. “I live about two kilometres from the riots. The closest to me are the riots in Camden and Islington,” he said. “It’s really all over the place. People are cautious (about going) out,” he said.

Like many living in London, Pienaar has harsh words for the kids who have turned to thuggery and looting: “Society has become one of sitting at home and the appreciation for hard work and success is something these kids do not grow up with.

“The fact that the economy is doing as badly as it is, has the worst impact on the poorer communities in London, and it’s this lack of positivity and a bad attitude that has just culminated here.”

He says police are powerless because it is mostly children rioting.

Another South African, Corné Bouwer, says the problem is police in London have not started to use rubber bullets on the rioters. “We are okay where we are now, but if those rioters come to our areas, we will sort them out ourselves,” he warned.

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