Residents divided as foreigners flee Soweto

Johannesburg – Soweto residents are divided as many foreigners have left the community following attacks and looting of their shops.

Temesgon Worku, from Ethiopia, said: "We have moved out the area. It is not safe. We are now living at a safe place in Johannesburg.”

He said: "We are trying to make an honest living, but we are blamed for single incidents happening in the community."

He said residents attacked them and looted their shops on Monday in Snake Park.

"They called us makwerekwere and said we must leave."

Makwerekwere is slang for foreigner.

Several shops owned by Ethiopians, Pakistanis and Somalis were closed in Snake Park following the attacks.

Residents went on a rampage looting shops and attacking foreigners after a teenager was shot dead in Snake Park. Mthetheleli Siphiwe Mahori, 14, was shot dead, allegedly by a foreign shop owner on Monday. He was apparently part of a group that tried to rob the shop.

The violence spilled over to Braamfischerville, Dobsonville, Emdeni, Zola and Protea Glen.

"They attacked us and say we do not have to defend ourselves or our businesses because we are foreigners.

"The government must help us. We have been attacked and left with nothing," he said.

"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."

Worku said two of his relatives were arrested while trying to defend themselves.

"They had a panga and their attackers were armed with guns. The police arrested them and left the armed attackers."

Senosi Yusuf, who was arrested for the murder of Mahori, appeared in the same court where his case was postponed to 26 January.

‘They were helping us’

Local residents were divided on foreigners leaving the area.

"They were helping us. They allow us to buy on credit when we did not have money compared to South Africans who refuse us credit," said Anniki Meleleke.

She appealed for calm saying she did not believe the violence was sparked by the shooting of a teenager.

"It must have been pre-planned and this unfortunate incident is used as a scapegoat."

She said apart from offering residents credit, foreigners rented shops from locals.

Paul Mogale said foreigners helped pensioners by giving them groceries on credit.

"They provide a service for pensioners, but for young people they ruin their lives by selling them drugs," he claimed.

Mogale alleged he had seen boys as young as 14 buying drugs from foreigners.

"The boys are regulars at their shop."

Gauteng police said nearly 70 people had 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.

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