Somalis claim soldiers, cops helped get rid of foreigners

2011-05-28 18:08

The army and Ekurhuleni metro cops helped the police in “unlawful raids” on shops owned by Somali nationals in Ramaphosa, east of Joburg.

Details of the SANDF’s alleged actions are contained in an affidavit filed by the Somali Community Board’s (Scob) national secretary Amir Sheikh at the South Gauteng High Court last week.

Scob, the representative organisation for Somali nationals in South Africa, successfully applied for an order to stop Greater Gauteng Business Forum
(GGBF) members from “intimidating, harassing, hindering and interfering with businesses owned by people of ­foreign extract”.

Police were also ordered by acting judge George Bizos to ensure that cops are not involved in unlawful action, ­intimidation or interfering with ­businesses owned by foreigners in ­townships across Gauteng.

In his affidavit, Sheikh says the SAPS was “accompanied and assisted by SANDF members and Ekurhuleni metro police” when Scob members were told to open their shops and load their goods into SAPS trucks on May 3, the day after the expiry of notices delivered to foreign shop owners on April 26.

The notices warned foreign nationals to close their shops within seven days.

The SANDF and metro police were not listed as respondents because they were invited to assist the SAPS, according to Scob’s lawyer Moeketsi Raselo.
Sheikh says the SANDF assisted in “isolated events” on May 3 during the “raiding of shops”.

The SANDF’s Colonel Petrus Motlhabane said the defence force was invited by police, “who should say why they invited the army”.

Police took action because “word was going around that there would be ­attacks” and as a result of a directive from the SAPS’s top brass.

“During these raids (police, Ekurhuleni metro cops and SANDF members) simply walked into supermarkets and grocery stores and loaded groceries and foodstuff into police vans ... never to be seen again,” reads Sheikh’s affidavit.

The raids, says Sheikh, expanded to Moroka, Soweto on May 6 but the SANDF was not involved on this day. Moroka police closed down three shops.

Moroka police told Raselo they received instructions “from above” to close the foreign shops. The cops’ reason, Raselo says, was that “foreign nationals are vulnerable to criminals and some don’t have permits to operate”.

Ministry of Police spokesperson Zweli Mnisis said they do not talk to people who go about threatening other people based on the colour of the skin or their origin, we arrest them.

“The country cannot be held at ransom by a bunch of people who break the law and police have to talk to them. What police have done is to arrest those who intimidate innocent, unarmed foreign nationals.

Police have a mandate to maintain law and order and anyone who breaks the law under the ambit of the so-called xenophobic attacks, the law will take its cause,” he said.

Sheikh says no lawful basis exists for the raiding of businesses run by people of foreign origin trading in townships. “Present throughout were GGBF members who accompanied the SAPS.”

Sheikh says when the letters were served on Somali traders, he was asked to arrange a meeting with Gauteng Local Government and Housing MEC Humphrey Mmemezi. Which he did.

However, the meeting scheduled for May 11 never occurred and Scob approached the high court. The foreign nationals fear that the unlawful dispossession, stifling of competition and intimidation will inevitably escalate into the xenophobic violence of May 2008.

Raselo says he tried to serve ­papers on GGBF chairperson Makhosana Mhlanga, who retorted: “How do you ­negotiate the future of this country with foreigners?”

In his affidavit, Raselo says Mhlanga told him he could only give his address for serving court papers if he was representing South Africans, not foreigners.

Ekurhuleni metro police spokesperson Wilfred Kgasago admitted to helping the SAPS but described claims that the raids were unlawful as “unfounded”.

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