Cele calls for calm after xenophobic violence

“It is my main source of income. I use it to feed my children” says woman whose restaurant was burnt down

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Photo of men with sticks
Protesters, many of them armed, sang and chanted before police minister Bheki Cele addressed them in Jeppestown on Tuesday. Photo: Gaby Ndongo

Police Minister Bheki Cele called for calm on Tuesday in Jeppestown following two days of violent protests in Johannesburg and Pretoria targeting immigrants’ shops.

Speaking to a crowd of protesters after a meeting with community members and business owners in Jeppestown police station, Cele suggested a meeting with protest leaders, political parties, and izinduna from nearby hostels on Sunday.

Violent protests and looting of immigrant shops began Monday morning in the Johannesburg and Pretoria inner-city areas, as well as Jeppestown, which is in downtown Johannesburg.

“We want to listen to your cries; we are not here to mandate,” Cele said. The crowd, many of them carrying sticks and other weapons, yelled in disagreement. The protesters claimed that immigrants are taking jobs from South Africans and accused them of selling drugs.

A protest leader, who did not want to give his name, addressed the crowd after Cele spoke and urged them to hear what the minister will say on Sunday. But when speaking to GroundUp, the man reiterated the call that immigrants should leave.

Gauteng premier David Makhura attended the meeting at the police station but left early to Coronationville where a South African had allegedly been shot.

The police’s National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure said more than 110 people had been arrested since Sunday after “sporadic acts of violence”.

“In Gauteng, more than 90 people were arrested after looting shops and damaging property in Johannesburg and surrounding areas.”

“These acts of violence are purely criminal and must be condemned in the strongest possible terms.”

Those arrested would be charged with attempted murder, public violence, unlawful possession of arms and ammunition and/or malicious damage to property, SAPS said.

Clement Onyebuchi, a Nigerian restaurant owner in the Johannesburg city centre, saw her restaurant burn during Monday’s violent protest and looting. She estimates that goods worth more than R200,000, including cooking appliances and stocks of food, were lost.

“It is my main source of income. I use it to feed my children,” said Onyebuchi, who started the restaurant about two years ago. She said she would lay charges against those who had destroyed her restaurant.

She rents her restaurant from a South African woman. “When she came, she was crying,” Onyebuchi said.

Samuel Nkabinde watched the scene on Monday from an apartment building at the corner of Harrison and Jeppe.

He said the protestors came from Jeppestown and then made their way to Metro Mall Market and Taxi Rank and then went to Braamfontein.

“I don’t think it is a xenophobic attack. These people just want to steal,” said Nkabinde.

“It was looting; you know, people are hungry,” said a baker from a bakery at Bree Street, who did not want to be identified.

TOPICS:  Immigration

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