Foreigner told: GET OUT

2017-03-08 10:43
Abaynhe Alemehu’s shop at Imbali unit two, which was stripped of stock and cash on Wednesday. INSET: The letter sent to Abaynhe Alemehu bearing the ward 19 councillor’s stamp, giving him three months’ notice to leave the ward.

Abaynhe Alemehu’s shop at Imbali unit two, which was stripped of stock and cash on Wednesday. INSET: The letter sent to Abaynhe Alemehu bearing the ward 19 councillor’s stamp, giving him three months’ notice to leave the ward. (Thabang Mathebula)

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Pietermaritzburg - A Msunduzi councillor has endorsed efforts by the Imbali business community to send a clear message to a foreign shopkeeper there to move out of the area.

A week ago, a foreign-owned spaza shop was looted in Imbali unit two, in what the owner believes was a xenophobic attack on his business.

Shop-owner Abaynhe Alemehu, who has been living in South Africa for 10 years, said he now fears for his life.

He described the incident as an act of hatred driven by jealousy.

Plessislaer police spokesperson captain Musa Ntombela confirmed the incident and said three men had been arrested. One was released on bail and the others were remanded in custody.

Alemehu said the attack followed several threatening letters that had been sent to him in the past few months, which stated he either had to abandon his shop and leave, or face the consequences.

He believes the attack at his shop was a deliberate attack, and not a robbery.

One of the three letters, seen by The Witness, which Alemehu received, is stamped with ward 19 councillor Caiphus Ndawonde’s stamp.

Ndawonde admitted to have been part of a series of meetings at which local businesses met and resolved to bar foreign business owners from operating in the ward. “They came to me lamenting the influx of foreign-owned shops and their low prices. We set up a meeting with the people from whom the foreign shop-owners rent their shop spaces, and they did not arrive for that meeting.

“The committee then took a decision to write to them [the foreign shop-owners] to inform them that they have been given three months to leave the township,” Ndawonde said.

He said they agreed that there should be no looting or violence.

When three months passed at the end of February, they wrote a reminder letter, which was distributed to them, he said.

“When the shop-owner did not respond to the letter, they went there but the shopkeeper panicked and left the shop. The businesspeople left and the shop was looted. It was not them [businesspeople] who looted the shop,” said the councillor.

According to Alemehu, one of the letters from the Imbali Business Association with the stamp of the local councillor’s office stated that they must vacate the ward and are no longer needed in the community. “In December, they met at the hall to discuss how [local] businesses are struggling because of us.

“They subsequently sent me letters informing me to close down and leave the area. But some members of the community backed me up. They told me to stay because I help them. I am helping people living in the community. Sometimes when gogos do not have cash to buy, I give them credit, and they repay me when they get their grant. I also run special prices sometimes and they say it kills their businesses,” he said.

“Recently, I received another [letter] titled ‘Final Decision’ informing me that if I don’t leave the area by March, I will [suffer] the consequences,” Alemehu told The Witness.

“The letter reads, if I don’t leave by March 2, people will come and destroy everything. It came true. On March 2, just after 5.30 pm, indeed they came and took everything from my shop and the cash I had there.”

He said a red Quantum arrived at his shop, situated opposite Imbali unit two police station, on Wednesday.

“They threatened the life of my shopkeeper and she unlocked the steel door for them. They walked in and took every single item of stock in my shop worth R25 000 and R7 000 in cash,” he said.

Although fearing for his life, Alemehu said he has got the support of people living around him.

“It’s only some of the community members, not all of them who are campaigning to have me barred.”

South African Local Government Association (Salga) in KZN spokesperson Unathi Nxumalo referred The Witness back to Msunduzi Municipality for comment in the matter.

Msunduzi Municipality speaker Jabu Ngubo and Mayor Themba Njilo were both unavailable for comment.

ANC provincial secretary Super Zuma said they were not aware of the matter, but will take it further through the means of investigation. “We are hearing it for the first time. We will investigate it. It is not the policy of the ANC to bar foreigners,” Zuma said.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  xenophobia

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