Scores of foreign business owners in Pretoria west vowed on Friday that they would not leave their shops, and said they were prepared to die defending their means of survival.
“We are not criminals here. If these people [protesting South Africans] are angry about crime, then why don’t they go to the criminals? There is no drugs or prostitutes here you can see,” said Imran Sheikh Abdullah, a spokesperson for the immigrant community.
“These people are not here to fight any crime. They are here to loot and plunder our resources. They are taking advantage of the current tension. I don’t know what is going to happen to us. We have nowhere else to go.”
Abdul Noor said he had hastily left his shop in Atteridgeville, west of Pretoria, after the protesters pounced on his business and looted his stock.
“We had removed some of the major stock from the shops, but some was remaining. We moved to Pretoria and it’s the last place we will be in. If they are to kill us, they will kill us in our shops. We are afraid. Our businesses our closed,” said Noor.
“We do not understand, because we as Somalians, do not do any crime in this country. They [protesters] are hiding behind crime accusation to take stock in our shops. This happens every time they say they are protesting. The government of South Africa does nothing about it.”
Congolese national, Lipasa Nketani, who works as a security guard, said the protests had left him and his family petrified.
“How does South Africans do that to their fellow African? Why target Africans only if they are genuine about fighting crime? I was pushed by circumstances beyond my control to be in South Africa. People are dying in the Democratic Republic of Congo,” said Nketani.
“I have been in South Africa for the past 17 years. There are many South Africans doing business in my country. In Congo we are not treating South Africans the way South Africans are treating us. We don’t regard South Africans in Congo as foreigners. We are one.”
Two groups, one made up of South Africans and the other comprising of foreign nationals were engaged in a stand-off in Pretoria west earlier on Friday, hurling insults and threats at each other while a strong police contingent kept the two crowds at bay. At one point, police were forced to fire rubber bullets to disperse the two groupings.