Somali shopkeepers, ousted from their homes and businesses in Soweto during a looting spree last week, have sought refuge in the Johannesburg suburb of Mayfair. They told AAISHA DADI PATEL about their lives since the attacks.
Fatuma Hassan, 30
The police refused to even give us a case number. I’m a mother: I have four kids aged 10, nine, three and six months, and they wanted to rape me in the street. These people have no shame. It’s better that we should go back to our country now, so at least we know we could have a proper janaazah (Muslim burial).
Fuad Bare Amin, 23
Last night [Monday], they broke our gate. When they came in, I tried to run. I didn’t have anything to defend myself with and I was alone. They took all the stock, leaving only one fridge. They beat me up. They abused me. At 11 o’clock last night my friend brought me here to Mayfair. I didn’t go to a hospital and I can’t go back to my place. I have no money to stay in town – every step you take in town, you need money for.
In my country I lost my parents. I have no sisters and no brothers – I’m alone. I work here, I get a little bit of money – I share a shop with another guy. But now I’ve lost all my money. I have nothing. I beg the government to help me. All I have is the clothes I’m wearing. Last night I slept at a friend, because I can’t go back there – but I didn’t sleep. How can I sleep?
A’isha Abdi, 26
I work with the Somali Community Board. I’m trying to keep a list of everyone who had their stuff looted and don’t have anywhere else to go – the affected people come here and I note down their details. If they need it, we give them food and blankets which we get from donations. So far I’ve got about 100 different shopkeepers’ details, but that isn’t everyone – not everyone reports what happens and not everyone’s come here. They lose everything – it’s very sad.
Ibrahim Hassan, 38
These people make trouble. They robbed all my shops and took all my things during the night. Last week, at midnight, they came in and took everything. Now we don’t have anything and we don’t have any place to stay. No one helps me. The first person to ask me about anything is you.
I don’t see any community here, and the police are all part of the trouble. They all made so much noise that night and I couldn’t tell them apart – who is the police, and who is the community? I don’t know. I ran away from them and who knows if I can ever go back.
Ismaeel Adam, 29
It was evening. People started breaking the door and taking things. Police came once. They left our fridges, but that was it. We saved some stock – a madala (old man) who lived next door to me in Soweto helped me to just save whatever things we could. These people hurt me; they stabbed me. I’ve lived in this country for five years and this is the sixth time this happened to me. No one helps us – not the police, not the government, not the United Nations. They don’t take us seriously. No one cares about us.
Abdallah Hassan, 45
Isn’t this a nice shirt? This sister just gave it to me because I have no other clothes. They came and they robbed me. I had a shop in Soweto North. They told me I’m a fucking foreigner, I must go. In 2010, it happened too. They burnt our things. I was working with two other guys – one passed away and one went back to his home country, Sudan. I registered for UNHCR then, in 2010, and until today they still haven’t called me. My children and my wife ran away from here and are now stuck at the Kenya/Somalia border. I’m the only one still here.
All images: By Aaisha Dadi Patel.