Soweto unrest shows lack of compassion for foreigners, says LHR

More than 120 people were arrested during incidents of looting of foreign-owned shops in Snake Park, Soweto. (Gustav Butlex, M&G)

More than 120 people were arrested during incidents of looting of foreign-owned shops in Snake Park, Soweto. (Gustav Butlex, M&G)

The unrest that flared up in Soweto and other areas this week showed a lack of compassion for foreign nationals trying to make a living in South Africa, Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) said on Saturday.

“The LHR is shocked and disappointed by the blatant disregard for human life in these attacks and calls for a swift and efficient end to the violence,” said LHR attorney Patricia Erasmus in a statement.

“Although any situation of violence is complicated and a multitude of factors (including ordinary criminal elements) contribute to the chaos, an overwhelming number of victims are foreign shop owners - giving the attacks an apparently xenophobic appearance.”

The unrest in Soweto began on Monday when 14-year-old Siphiwe Mahori was shot dead, allegedly by a Somalian shopkeeper, as Mahori and a group tried to rob his shop in Snake Park.

The shop owner was expected to appear in the Protea Magistrate’s Court on a charge of murder on Monday.

In another incident, a 19-year-old youth was shot in Naledi on Wednesday and was declared dead on arrival at hospital.

According to The Star the youth, Nhlanhla Monareng, was shot when police fired into a crowd gathered at a Pakistani-owned shop. 

He was a bystander.

Avoidable tragedies
Gauteng police commissioner Lt-General Lesetja Mothiba said the looting had since spread to Diepsloot, north of Johannesburg, and Kagiso, on the West Rand.

In Swaneville, on the West Rand, a 61-year-old bystander was shot and killed when a foreigner fired at a crowd stoning his shop on Thursday night.

On the same day in Tshepisong, a man was wounded while allegedly trying to break into a spaza shop belonging to a foreigner.

“These deaths were all avoidable tragedies,” said Erasmus.

“These latest attacks demonstrate the continuing intolerance of foreign nationals in the country and the opportunistic crime that follows through the looting of their stores when they flee to safety.”

The LHR was also appalled by reports that some police officers stood by and did nothing to stop the violence and looting.

“However, we are pleased by the overall action by police to quell many of the attacks and making more than 120 arrests,” said Erasmus.

“It is now important that police conduct a proper and thorough investigation to ensure that justice is served.”

She said the LHR would be speaking to victims for statements to draw up a full account of the situation.

Victims of the violence can contact LHR for advice and assistance on 011 339 1960 or 012 320 2943.

Erasmus said victims of looting can apply to the SA Social Security Agency for a distress grant. –Sapa

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