Fatima Hassan watched her cousin’s shop being looted in Slovoville, Soweto, on Thursday. Hassan said she was asked to travel to Soweto and assist shopkeepers and her cousin with moving the stock out of his shop amid the looting.
“When I got there it was a mess: gun shots, people wielding knives and knobkerries taking things from the shop,” she told The Daily Vox. “The police were telling people to take our stock right in front of me – that is when I knew they were not going to help us.”
Hassan said she was desperate as she attempted to salvage what was left from her cousin’s shop. “It was chaos and the people were inside taking things. I felt helpless – they had finished everything” she said.
While the Gauteng MEC for Community Safety, Sizakele Mkosi-Malobane, has labelled these incidents as “criminality” and not “xenophobia”, Hassan thinks otherwise.
“The people in the shop shouted and said ‘Here is a Somali,’ and I cried and I ran away. It was scary because out of all the people in the shop they targeted me and pointed me out. I did not know what they were going to do to me,” she said.
“It is xenophobia, my sister. Yes, taking from our shops is crime but it is happening because we are foreigners. The police are supposed to stop crime, instead they tell people to take our stock,” Hassan said.
According to Hassan, the Somalis have tried to build a good relationship with the community by hiring in the area, and giving customers discounts and credit, but they are still being chased away.
“Please help us – I’m tired of this country. Somalia is [at] war, here it’s war – I don’t know where to go now,” Hassan said.
Reports of police partaking in the looting have not gone unheeded.
At a press conference at the Moroka police station on Friday morning, Gauteng police commissioner Lieutenant-General Lesetja Mothiba warned police offers to be careful they did not find themselves on the wrong side of the law, as reported by BizNews. “They must resist from turning into criminals themselves,” Lesetja said.
– Featured image: Via Yusuf Abramjee on Twitter.