PICTURES: Soweto police on alert; foreigners beg help

By Drum Digital
22 January 2015

Police were on high alert in Soweto on Wednesday, the third day of clashes between locals and foreigners that left at least two people dead.

Police could not confirm a report that a third person was killed.

"The government must help us. We have been attacked and left with nothing," Temesgon Worku, from Ethiopia, told a Sapa reporter.

"Our brothers have no food or clothes. If the government does not want us they must tell us. We will go to countries that will accept us."

He said locals had robbed them and chased them away.

"They called us makwerekwere (foreigners) and said we must leave. We do not feel safe anymore," he said.

Nearly 70 people have been arrested on charges including murder, robbery, public violence, and illegal possession of firearms. Eight of them were foreign nationals allegedly found in possession of unlicensed firearms.

One was a policeman caught on camera allegedly taking part in the looting.

A Gauteng MEC insisted the attacks, during which 14-year-old Siphiwe Mahori and a foreign national were killed, were not xenophobia.

"The actions are pure criminality. For now we won't declare it xenophobic attacks," Gauteng safety MEC Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane told reporters in Johannesburg.

She was speaking at a briefing alongside Gauteng police commissioner Lt-Gen Lesetja Mothiba, who confirmed two boys had been shot. One of them, a 15-year-old, survived.

Senosi Yusuf appeared in the Protea Magistrate's Court charged with the murder of Mahori. The boy who was shot and injured had been discharged from hospital.

Mahori was apparently part of a group that tried to rob Yusuf's shop on Monday.

"One of the boys was fatally shot and another injured... It's alleged that the members of the community staged revenge [attacks] and started looting foreign shops in the area," said Mothiba.

A second person was shot dead during looting in Zola on Wednesday night. He was a foreign national, Mothiba said.

The Star reported that 74-year-old Malawian shopkeeper Dan Mokwena, was attacked and killed as she slept in his shop in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Police spokesman Lieutenant Kay Makhubela could not confirm a report in The Star that a second teenager was also killed.

Nhlanhla Monareng, 19, was shot dead when police fired into a crowd gathered at a Pakistani-owned shop in Naledi on Wednesday night. He was a bystander and reportedly friends with the Pakistanis, according to the newspaper.

In Dobsonville on Thursday afternoon, foreign nationals were packing their stock into white vans, with several police vehicles parked around them as a guard.

"More reinforcement has been sent into the area of Soweto. I am confident that the situation is under control and has been stabilised," Mothiba said at the briefing.

An operations centre had been set up to co-ordinate the police's operations in the area.

Two Ethiopians appeared in the Protea Magistrate's Court on Thursday charged with possession of unlicensed firearms and ammunition. Their bail applications would be heard on January 29. The majority of those in the public gallery were also foreign nationals.

Yusuf's bail application, in the same court, was postponed to January 26.

Dobsonville station commander, Brigadier Azwindini Nengovhela, said many foreigners had left the area for their own safety.

"All those others who were owning tuck shops voluntarily decided to leave."

Makhubela said: "We believe it's calm and police are monitoring the situation."

Pictures by Sharon Seretlo.

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