Xenophobic looting leaves trail of destruction in South Africa’s Soweto suburb – Again!

Bongani Siziba

JOHANNESBURG – Soweto saw two nights of destruction, violence and looting of migrant-owned shops Wednesday and Thursday night.

Some of the local residents of Johannesburg’s oldest suburb claimed they did it in a protest of anger against recent attack of police officers – in the Johannesburg CBD, two weeks ago. A number of shops were trashed and looted before police came in to restore calm Wednesday, but looting returned in sporadic fashion the following night.

Two weeks ago law-enforcement agents from the South African Police Service and the Johannesburg Metro Police Department were attacked by shop owners while trying to conduct raids on migrant-shopped shops, allegedly in search for counterfeits goods.

Police Spokesperson, Captain Kay Makhubela, confirmed the looting, which happened in some parts of Soweto.

“For now there is no indication on why the looting started, but l can confirm there has been looting in Zola, White city, Zondi and Rockville,” said Capt Makhubela.

In a statement, Gauteng Premier David Makhura condemned the attacks.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms these act of criminality. The criminals who looted foreign-owned shops under a disguise of revenging on behalf of the police must be arrested. The police are in the business of fighting crime irrespective of the motive,” said Mr Makhura.

By Thursday morning, seven people had been arrested and police officers were still on the ground, monitoring the situation. Some shop owners were taken to police stations for safety.

“I must congratulate the police for acting swiftly and ensuring the safety of shop owners and some of their belongings,” added Makhura.

The South African government, through its Government Communications and Information Systems Director General, Phumla Williams, also condemned the attacks.

“Every citizen and foreign national must be aware that government will not allow lawlessness, criminality and violence crimes. Government is committed to ensuring that all within South Africa boaders feel safe,” said Ms Williams.

Around the same time last year, a number of migrant-owned shops in Soweto were looted and raided by the community, who accused the shop owners of selling fake and expired goods.

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