Calm after looting in Mhluzi following discovery of murdered woman

2018-10-18 17:38

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Police are on high alert in Mhluzi, near Middletown in Mpumalanga, after the looting of shops owned by foreign nationals.

On Wednesday and in the early hours of Thursday, angry residents vented their anger on foreign nationals following the discovery of a woman's body in Mhluzi.

The unknown woman, estimated to be in her mid-20s, was found wrapped in a blanket and a plastic bag covered her head.

Rumours quickly spread that the woman had been killed by a foreign national, which drove residents to loot shops in the area.

Police spokesperson Colonel Mtsholi Bhembe said residents went on a rampage, looting shops, upon the discovery of the woman's body.

Bhembe said they arrested a 26-year-old man in Pretoria on Wednesday for the woman's murder.

The man is expected to appear in the Middelburg Magistrate's Court on Friday on a charge of murder.

Bhembe could not confirm if he was a foreign national.

"Yesterday (Wednesday) afternoon, residents went on a rampage looting shops. Police gained the upper hand and managed to control the situation.

"Later in the evening, residents again returned and looted shops. We are on the ground controlling the situation," he said.

Bhembe said the area remained calm but tense and police would maintain visibility in the area.

On Thursday morning, some foreign businessmen salvaged what remained from their shops.

They loaded their wares into their vehicles and took it to Middelburg.

Birano Ababa, from Ethiopia, couldn't save anything from his shop and had to run for his life.

"A group of people arrived at my shop and started taking my stock. I was afraid and fled on foot. When I returned this morning, they took everything, including my two fridges."

Ababa said he lost more than R100 000 worth of his goods.

Another businessman, Mulugeta Abode, also from Ethiopia, managed to save a large chunk of his stock.

Abode, who arrived with a truck to load his goods, said looters broke into the back of the shop in the early hours of Thursday morning and stole cigarettes and airtime vouchers.

"I am taking my stock to store it in Middelburg. I have lost between R14 000 and R15 000 from the cigarettes and airtime vouchers they stole.

"I don't know what to do. These things happen often whenever the community is angry," he said.

The businessmen vowed to return to their shops once calm had been restored.

Some residents were against the looting and complained that they were forced to go to town to buy groceries.

Sarah Mamagakwe, 63, who lives opposite one of the shops that was looted, said that she didn't have money to travel to town daily to buy things that she could have bought from nearby shops.

"Imagine going to town to buy bread daily. What these children have done is wrong. We are already suffering. We are poor and these shops were assisting us because we also get some items on credit," she said.

Paulina Maluleka, 29, said not all foreign nationals were involved in the killing of the woman.

"What have they done for their shops to be looted? They are innocent. Why are they being punished for something they didn't do?

"There is no proof that all of them killed that woman. What's important is that the man who killed that woman is arrested and there was no need for people to loot," said Maluleka.

Bhembe has appealed for assistance in identifying the woman's body.

Read more on:    saps  |  crime

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