Walmer township looters force Somalis to flee

Luyolo Mkentane

 

CHAOS broke out in Port Elizabeth’s Walmer township yesterday when protesting residents went on the rampage, attacking and looting several shops owned by Somalis.

 

Many Somalis who feared for their lives fled yesterday afternoon to seek refuge with friends and family in other parts of the city.

 

The protesters burnt [sociallocker] tyres and closed off Heugh Road and Ninth Avenue, which leads to the township.

 

Police used teargas, rubber bullets and stun grenades to disperse the crowds.

 

Many were demanding the release of the protesters arrested for public violence on Monday.

 

Police spokesman Captain Stanley Jarvis said 14 people had been arrested yesterday for public violence and being in possession of suspected stolen property.

 

Some community members distanced themselves from the looting, saying they were not fighting against the Somalis, but wanted service delivery.

 

The riot was the latest in a series of violent demonstrations by residents demanding houses, electricity and sanitation from the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality.

 

The previous wave of protests was halted last month when the residents gave officials until the first week of this month to come back with an action plan.

 

Shop owner Mohamad Osan said: “Three guys came and kicked down the door and started looting the shop. They stole everything. Even the fridge was stolen.”

 

Osan, who has lived in the township for the past 10 years, said his truck had also been stoned.

 

His friend, Mahat Ali, said he lost about R70000 worth of stock.

 

“The police rescued us and escorted us out of the township,” Ali said.

 

Good Hope shop owner Mahomed Abdi Osman said: “They started looting our shops [on Tuesday] morning.”

 

Heavily armed police kept watch as Osman removed what was left of his stock from his shop.

 

Newtown shop owner Adanna Taktane said he had lost about R10000 in stock during the looting.

 

Mayor Zanoxolo Wayile was scheduled to report back to residents on the city’s plans to deliver services yesterday morning.

 

But his address was delayed by community members – led by ward councillor Nomajama Benya – who demanded that Monday’s protesters be released before he could speak to them.

 

“We want the comrades who were arrested to be released first,” Benya said through a loud-hailer.

 

Monday’s protesters appeared in the Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court yesterday. Some were released on bail while others were let off on a warning.

 

Wayile, accompanied by acting municipal manager Themba Hani, public health executive director Dr Mamisa Chabula-Nxiweni and other officials, finally addressed the residents at about 4pm.

 

A provincial inter-ministerial team, including Human Settlements MEC Helen Sauls-August, Local Government MEC Mlibo Qoboshiyane and his Health counterpart, Sicelo Gqobana, had been tasked to “assist Walmer and other hotspot areas of service delivery”, Wayile said.

 

“The challenges in Walmer need all the spheres of government to work together.

 

“On Thursday or Friday, we are going to meet with premier Noxolo Kiviet to look at other avenues regarding further funding for housing development in the metro.”

 

The metro had requested R511- million for housing development from Bhisho, Wayile said.

 

“But we were given only R271- million. We will negotiate with everybody for more money for housing development.

 

“I will be in the frontline negotiation for alternative [funding].”

 

Municipal housing official Mvuleni Mapu said the metro had identified the Walmer Country Club and erf 11305, situated next to it.

 

“We are currently in talks with the owners of the land to try and acquire it,” Mapu said.

 

Wayile said residents had made it clear they did not want to be relocated. “That is why we have identified this land which is closest to them.”

 

Asked by the residents when construction would begin, Wayile said the team of officials would have to discuss it first.

 

But community members were not satisfied.

 

“We are not happy with the response on the housing issue. People wanted to know when development is going to start,” community leader Mbulelo Tulumani said.

 

“Also, this issue of engaging with the land owners looks like it is going to be a long process.”

 

He said community leaders would discuss “a way forward”.

 

Following his release from custody, one of Monday’s protesters, Mzalazala Lukwe, 26, said some residents had seen the protests as a chance to commit crime.

 

“Police were forced to arrest a whole group of us, even if we were not involved in the violence,” he said. [/sociallocker]Additional reporting by Kathryn Kimberley

 

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