30 August 2018 – 13:39
BY ERNEST MABUZA

Residents of Jabavu, Soweto, loot a foreign-owned spaza shop after Banele Qhayiso was allegedly shot dead by a shop owner on August 29, 2018.


Residents of Jabavu, Soweto, loot a foreign-owned spaza shop after Banele Qhayiso was allegedly shot dead by a shop owner on August 29, 2018. 

Image: Thulani Mbele

The deaths of three people as foreign-owned shops were looted in Soweto are evidence of what can go wrong when communities take the law into their own hands.

The destruction‚ fuelled by claims that foreign-owned shops were selling expired or hazardous food‚ saw Johannesburg MMC for health and social development Mpho Phalatse call for calm.

Three people died on Wednesday as community members went on the rampage‚ looting foreign-owned shops in parts of Soweto.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) condemned the xenophobic nature of the attacks‚ called on law enforcement officers to arrest the perpetrators as well as investigate allegations that some shops were selling food that was not safe for consumption.

“The perpetrators need to be charged with attempted murder for poisoning community members if these allegations are true‚” said Cosatu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla.

Cosatu said there had been allegations that some retailers had supplied expired food to foreign-owned shops but there had not been the political will to investigate the claims. “Cosatu calls for a comprehensive investigation that will get to the bottom of this issue and the bigger retailers also need to be held accountable and prosecuted if necessary‚” said Pamla.

The Outreach Foundation‚ an organisation which offers support for migrant communities at risk‚ also condemned the destruction and looting of shops‚ describing it as a clear act of criminality that was fuelling xenophobia.

“We call upon affected foreign nationals not to take the law into their own hands and to report these criminal acts to their nearest police station and to ask for the assurance of their safety‚” the organisation said.

The City of Johannesburg said its environmental health practitioners‚ formerly known as health inspectors‚ were working around the clock to raid formal and informal food outlets following complaints from the public about the sale of expired food items.

Phalatse said it was important to let law enforcement agencies conduct their raids on some shops and not compromise the rights of lawful traders.

Phalatse said although she understood the frustration from communities‚ who bore the brunt of unscrupulous traders‚ she called for calm.

“The fatalities in Soweto are evidence of what can happen when communities take the law into their own hands. I would like to urge residents to please work through official channels to expose these offenders‚” said Phalatse.