South Africa: In Two Days Eight Spaza Shops Petrol-Bombed in the Cape Flats
By Sandiso Phaliso
Mitchells Plain home owners renting shops to foreign nationals say they are living in fear following the petrol bombing of four Spaza shops in Beacon Valley on Wednesday night, a day after four other Spaza shops were petrol bombed in Bishop Lavis.
This brings the number of reported Spaza shops burnt down in the Cape flats to a total of eight.
Four cases of arson were opened and "the motive and suspects are unknown at this stage," confirmed police spokesperson Andre Traut.
He said police received four complaints of arson targeted at foreign national owned tuck shops at Beacon Valley.
Upon police arrival it was discovered that the four shops owned by Bangladeshi, Pakistan and Somalia foreign nationals had sustained fire damage.
On Wednesday, scores of foreign nationals running Spaza shops in Bishops Lavi's Valhalla Park, about 10km away from Beacon Valley, parked up their belongings and fled the area hours after their shops were petrol-bombed and looted.
Mitchells Plain residents claim the reason for the petrol bomb attacks is that Spaza shops kept by foreign nationals were refusing to be guarded by a certain gang operating in the area, in exchange for payment.
According to a resident, who did not want to be named for fear of being victimised by them, the gang offered the foreign national Spaza shops keepers some protection in exchange for cash but the shopkeepers refused the offer - thus the petrol bombs attacks on their shops.
Resident Anelisa April, who rents a garage to three foreign nationals who run a shop from it, said she was afraid that her house would be burnt down in future violence. She said she has learnt her lesson and would not again rent her property to foreign nationals because they were the targets of criminals.
Mitchell's Plain Beacon Valley's house owner Mariska Simons, 34, who rents her house to two foreign nationals who run a Spaza shop, said she lost almost everything as a result of her house being petrol-bombed.
She said the shop was about to close when the property was petrol bombed, just before 10pm on Wednesday night.
Trapped inside the burning house with her two-year-old son, she thought she was going to burn inside the house until neighbours rescued her by breaking down the door of the house.
"I am lucky I am alive. I was screaming and thought I was going to die burning," said Mariska.
Ten minutes after she was rescued, she said she and other residents saw flames coming from the roof of a neighbouring shop.
As residents rushed to the second burning shop to try rescue people inside and help remove furniture, news broke that a third and a fourth shop was burning.
Simons said she was making R1400 profit from the foreign nationals who run the shop from her garage and now she does not know where she is going to get the money to pay for her monthly house-bond and groceries.
"Obviously I am upset," she said, adding that she depended on the monthly rent she was earning from the Somali shopkeepers as she is unemployed.
Neighbour Patricia Haris, 38, said on the day in question she heard three bangs and taught it was gunshots but when she went to investigate she saw Simon's house was in flames.
"I rushed to help take the furniture out of the house. Minutes later we heard there were other shops that were also petrol-bombed. This is terrible and unforgivable," said Haris.
Spaza shopkeeper Ahmed Ibrahim-Abram, who was busy about the close when the shop was petrol-bombed, said he was shaken by what happened.
He said it was his third month in the country, and although he had been warned of such acts of violence against spaza shops, "I never thought they could attempt to kill us with fire".
He said two weeks ago three men came to the shop and jokingly told them (foreign nationals) "we need to pay them R1000 for protection fee".
Last week, according to Ibrahim-Abram, different men came and asked for the R1000 but "we told them to go away and we never took them seriously.
"They told us they are coming back. We laughed and told them to come back we will be waiting, not knowing this would be this serious," he said.
Another shopkeeper, who rents space to run his shop a few meters away from Ibrahim-Abram's shop, said "we don't have the money to pay for security. We have rent to pay. We have ourselves to feed and the business to keep. What these men want is ridiculous".
However another businessman, who did not want to be named for fear of the gang, said he had already paid R800 of the R2000 that was due since the beginning of the month. "I have to comply otherwise my business would be targeted," said.
Traut said anyone with information should contact the Mitchell's Plain police
Source: West Cape News
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