Three killed as residents loot shops owned by foreigners in South African township

Three people have been killed and 27 arrested in some parts of Soweto, Gauteng as multiple shops belonging to foreign nationals were looted by residents during sporadic attacks in White City, Jabulani, Dobsonville, Naledi, Protea and Protea Glen over the selling of fake and expired goods.

According to reports, groceries worth thousands of rands, among other goods, were stolen after the first incident broke out in White City. As a result of the attacks, several foreign shop owners have left Soweto, while some victims were spotted at Moroka police station.

Gauteng MEC for Economic Development, Environment, Agriculture and Rural Development, Lebogang Maile, said there has been an influx of fake goods into townships around the province in recent times.

“If the root cause of the looting and targeting of foreign national owned shops is the selling of fake products and goods… as government, we need to act in the best interest of our people,” Maile said, adding, however, that “tough action needs to be taken against those responsible” for the fake goods, “but this does not require the affected communities to take the law into their own hands”.

Meanwhile, Police have deployed men to the sites and are monitoring the situation closely to ensure that law and order are maintained, said Acting National Commissioner, Lieutenant General Lebeoana Jacob Tsumane.

“Taking the law into your own hands is tantamount to anarchy and as the police, we will not stand by and let lawlessness to reign,” Tsumane said.

South Africa
Looters are seen next to a local shop in the township of Soweto, South Africa August 29, 2018, in this still image obtained from social media video. Twitter/Nompumelelo Mkhwanazi/via REUTERS

“I am calling on the community leaders and the community at large to reclaim their streets by partnering with the police in the fight against any criminality.”

Gauteng is one of the sites of the 2008 xenophobic attacks in South Africa that left more than 60 foreigners dead, including 21 South Africans. Several attacks have happened across the country since then.

A 2009 report titled “Towards Tolerance, Law and Dignity: Addressing Violence against Foreign Nationals in South Africa”, commissioned by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) found that poor service delivery or an influx of foreigners may have played a contributing role in the 2008 attacks. However, it blamed township politics and also found that community leadership was potentially lucrative for unemployed people, and that such leaders organised the attacks. According to Statistics South Africa (Stats SA), unemployment in South Africa was 26.7 percent over the first quarter of 2018.