South Africa’s ruling party has refused to condemn the violence after a group of 30 people torched shops belonging to foreigners in the Durban CBD yesterday.
The region has had sporadic incidents of xenophobic violence while veterans of the party’s military wing, uMkhonto weSizwe have accused foreigners of taking local jobs.
On Monday, foreign shop owners in the Durban CBD said they were grateful to be alive after their shops were ransacked and torched by a group of about 30 people, believed to be members of ANC-aligned uMkhonto weSizwe.
The group were stopped from marching to the Durban City Hall, where the city’s government is based, on Monday morning by the Durban Metro Police and the SAPS.
The police argued that the group did not have a permit.
Acting as if they were dispersing, the mob tricked the police and regrouped moments later – this time joined by more people and they allegedly started rampaging through the shops and setting them alight.
Firefighters were called to douse the blaze in three shops.
Police reacted swiftly and stopped the group from burning more shops and one of the protesters allegedly tried to stab a police officer.
The suspect was arrested and charged with attempted murder and is expected to appear in court soon.
Shop owner Mohamed Hossain escaped without injuries after the group stormed his shop.
“I thought they were going to kill me when they entered my shop and started destroying everything,” he said.
“I ran outside and started praying. These people were angry and I feared for the worst.”
Hossain estimated the damage at his shop, which sells cell phones and other appliances, to be over R500,000.
“I have to start all over after working so hard to be where I am with my business. No one deserves such treatment.”
The group’s grievances were unclear at this stage.
Provincial MKMVA spokesperson Dumisani Mahlinza, distanced his organisation from the group.
ANC KwaZulu-Natal spokesperson Nhlakanipho Ntombela said the ANC would not get involved in this saga.
Police spokesperson Brigadier Jay Naicker confirmed the incident and vowed more arrests would be made.
“An operation is still ongoing to identify and arrest the other perpetrators. A case of public violence has been opened for further investigation.”