Small businesses owned by foreign nationals burnt down in Imizamo Yethu

Containers belonging to the foreign nationals looted and burnt in Imizamo Yethu. Pic by Bernard Chiguvare

“I have lost goods worth almost R45,000 and I do not know how I will restart. I am running out of ideas. This is the third time my container was looted and burnt. When I noted my container was on fire I rushed to take out some goods but while I shoved the goods out some were busy looting so I ended up leaving everything to burn”

Imizamo Yethu, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

Some foreign nationals running small businesses in Imizamo Yethu in Hout Bay say they are now running out of ideas on how to get money to restart their businesses. This was after their containers were gutted by fire during the protest in Imizamo Yethu on Saturday.

According to community leaders, the protest was about the  super blocking of the area that was affected by fire in March that left 3,500 structures destroyed and 15,000 people displaced (Groundup article 11 March 2017 article).

The City of Cape Town is now reblocking the area.

“The City promised to complete the reblocking in three months time but still they are in the process and this does not go well with the community. Residents usually resort to protest action. In the process foreign nationals are a soft sport. We as a community do not encourage this,” says Siniko Centane, chairman of Imizamo Yethu neighbourhood watch.

A woman takes cover in a doorway as police and protesters confront each other in Imizamo Yethu in Hout Bay. The protest started after the Anti-Land Invasion Unit demolish shacks for reblocking. Pic by Ashraf Hendricks/GroundUp

Elitsha spoke to some foreign nationals whose containers were looted and burned.

“I have lost goods worth almost R45,000 and I do not know how I will restart. I am running out of ideas. This is the third time my container was looted and burnt. When I noted my container was on fire I rushed to take out some goods but while I shoved the goods out some were busy looting so I ended up leaving everything to burn,” says Tafadzwa Gora a Zimbabwean.

Gora, 36 used to repair and sell computers and refrigerators. He has stayed in Imizamo Yethu for 10 years. The small business is the only source of income for his family.

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“It is really bad and I am not sure how I will survive,” says Gora

Jimmy Songa, from Democratic Republic of Congo who trades in tyres, says, “All my goods were burnt including the machine I use for repairing tyres. This has been my only source of income and to make matters worse we have been blessed with a baby two weeks ago. I do not know how I will manage to feed the baby.”

Songa, 32 has been in South Africa for four years. He lost goods worth R30,000. He has since opened a case with the police.

But most of the foreign nationals speaking to the media say reporting to the police is a waste of time as they allege that police will not help the situation.

“I am really begging for any well-wishers to assist me raise money to start my business since my container was burnt four weeks ago. The business was the only way I could pay fees and transport to school for my children,” says John Katamba from Malawi.

Katamba, 35 has been in South Africa since 2009. He has five children. Two of the children need R300 each per month for transport to school.

“It is regrettable that the community attack the wrong people. If the community has any issues they should direct their anger to the right authorities. They should leave these foreign nationals do their business. Small business create jobs for the community,” says Kenny Tokwe, one of the community leaders whose house was burnt during the protest.

Meanwhile according to an email from the Mayor, Patricia De Lille, a peace deal to restore calm in the area has been reached. The deal allows for the City of Cape Town’s super reblocking project in the area to proceed.

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About Bernard Chiguvare 12 Articles
Originally from Zimbabwe and since 2014 I been contributing to different publications in South Africa. My area of focus as a reporter is on the rights of vulnerable communities and foreign nationals in any country.