South African killed during xenophobic violence in Springs

Man who allegedly shot him was trying to defend an immigrant

Photo of scene of dead man

A man lies dead under a silver wrapper in White City Section of Kwathema township. Photo: Kimberly Mutandiro

By Kimberly Mutandiro

5 September 2019

A man lay dead wrapped in a silver wrapper while his relatives wept in White City Section of Kwathema township in Springs on Wednesday. Police and residents gathered around the marked area.

Witnesses say the shooting happened at about 3pm when a landlord was trying to protect a foreign shop owner who was his tenant. The man who was shot dead lived in a different area about 3km away and was apparently coming from a shop. Kwathema police later said that he was 24 years old.

Vans were witnessed dropping groups of men who had come to loot shops in the area. Residents say looters were not from their area; they had not seen them before.

A 45-year-old woman was also shot during the same incident and taken to hospital, according to police.

“It is alleged that a group of people wanted to attack a shop owned by a foreign national. The landlord came out to rescue the shop owner. He warned and threatened the group of people that were outside his yard. A fight ensued, when he saw that he was overpowered he took out his licensed firearm and started shooting randomly,” said a police statement.

The man who shot had been arrested, the police said.

Nonkululekho Moage, a relative of the arrested man said: “This violence against foreigners is getting out of hand. Innocent people are being shot. Our brother fired the gun in self defence. He was trying to defend our home.”

Moage said that after the shooting they received warnings that their house would be burnt down.

“Welcome to South Africa, a place where foreign nationals are tormented”

In Kwathema’s Deep Level section we saw looters take the remaining stock out of an Wajebe Ayelo’s shop. Ayelo is Ethiopian. Still shaken by the incident he sat on the ground holding his asylum permit.

He had not yet called the police. Looters had not only taken his stock, but also his money.

“They said I must go back to my country because l am an illegal foreigner. I showed them my asylum permit but they laughed at me,” he said.

Ayelo said he had closed his shop earlier when people told him that looters were coming. However he says they managed to break the security door of his rental room and forced him to open the shop at gunpoint.

“While some looted my shop others turned my sleeping quarters upside down. They took all my money.”

He had operated his shop for five years. It had never been looted before.

“Now reality has been knocked into my senses,” he said. “When I called my friends and told them that my shop had finally been looted, they said: ‘Welcome to South Africa, a place where foreign nationals are tormented.’”

Wajebe Ayelo’s shop was looted. Photo: Kimberly Mutandiro

A night of gunshots

In the early hours of the morning on Thursday gunshots were heard across the township. Looters tracked down and emptied foreign-owned shops. Residents we spoke to said they hardly closed their eyes during the night as guns fired away.

“We could hear shooting and voices all night. Many shops around our section were broken into during the night,” said Gloria Mokoena who resides in Kwathema’s Highland section.

Earlier on Wednesday evening GroundUp had driven around Kwathema. A mob gathered near the men’s hostel. They chanted while burning tyres.