Covid-19: Township residents protect spaza shops from looters

Whoever loots these shops will get the people’s justice, warns Port Elizabeth resident

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Photo of the community outside the shop
Govan Mbeki township residents in Port Elizabeth gather outside Mubarak Spaza Shop after they chased away a gang of looters on Tuesday. They have promised to protect spasza shops in the area. Photo: Mkhuseli Sizani

Hundreds of residents from Govan Mbeki and Nkandla townships in Port Elizabeth took a stand against criminals to protect some immigrant-owned spaza shops from looters on Tuesday morning.

In Govan Mbeki GroundUp spoke to Mule Wanaro, the owner of Mubarak Spaza shop in Area 20, who recounted a narrow escape from armed looters: “About eight men with hammers and crowbars climbed on the roof while my two assistants were inside. They started tearing the zincs open but the community members came out and chased the gang.”

Wanaro said the assailants tried to run away but were caught and “given a beating” by residents.

Wanaro has been in the area for over ten years. He said he was proud to be a part of the community. “My shop was looted in September 2013. But today I am proud of this community. I wanted to take my stock and leave, but this community stopped me and said I must not worry because they will protect me,” he said.

Resident Siyabonga Nintsana said, “We heard the shopkeepers crying inside and we blew a whistle and everybody came out to rescue them. When [the gang] saw dozens of angry people they ran away.”

Nintsana said the spaza shop owners help the community. “They give us food on credit. Where are we going to get such a service if we allow these thugs to loot our shops?”

In Nkandla near Joe Slovo, hundreds of residents went to ward 41 councillor Simphiwe Tyukana’s house, demanding that they be given the social relief food parcels they believed had been promised to all poor households during the lockdown.

Nopink Mahomba, an area committee member told GroundUp: “Our shops were nearly looted after the residents were given the wrong information that everyone will get the food parcels. Our ward councillor and his committee members caused all this confusion.”

She said that Tyukana had gone door-to-door with registration forms for food parcels instead of allocating it to the 73 households which were in desperate need. “We discovered that in some of the households all the family members applied for food parcels. We informed Tyukana and he promised to meet with us on Wednesday.”

Mahomba said the situation remains tense after people were prevented from looting local shops. “We have asked the spaza shop owners to close their main entrances and sell through ‘trapdoors’ … Whoever loots these shops will get the people’s justice. When families can’t bury their people, we are helped by these spaza owners,” she said.

“During this lockdown there is no need for us to go to shopping malls, because we buy from their spaza shops,” she said.

Councillor Tyukana said that ANC councillors in Nelson Mandela Bay decided not to conduct the application process for food parcels from their offices, which is why he went door-to-door.

He said when the group of residents started protesting outside his house, he informed them he would raise the issue of food parcels at a meeting scheduled with SASSA.

Police spokesperson Captain Andre Beetge commended the residents for their efforts to protect spaza shops. “We applaud the residents for standing up and protecting their shops. Fighting crime is everybody’s responsibility. But we would like them not to take the law into their own hands. They must call the police when they catch the suspect so that he can be arrested,” he said.

TOPICS:  Covid-19 Food security

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