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Protesters turn on foreign shopkeepers

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At least 60 shops owned by foreign nationals in Mookgophong, Limpopo, were forced to close on Tuesday after protesting residents allegedly looted and vandalised some of them.

“They are robbing us,” said the foreign national traders’ representative Daniel Woidhana,addng: “Some stocks [are] already gone [and] they said they don’t need us in the township”.

Woidhana claimed that about R2 million worth of stock had been looted since the start of a service delivery protests on Thursday.

Riotous protestors have been calling for the removal of Mayor Sarah Monyamane from office because they say she has failed to an deliver basic services. At least for houses, including one owned by the mayor’s relative, have been torched allegedly by the protesters. Streets have been barricaded with burning tyres.

On Monday night a man said to be part of the protests was shot at and he died at the local clinic. Police are yet to arrest anyone in connection with the shooting, which is being invesigated by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate better known as IPID.

However, foreign nationals who spoke to the African News Agency (ANA) said protesters inexplicably turned on them and began looting their shops.

The foreign nationals claimed the unprovoked xenophobic attack surfaced for the first time in the area because protesters were “mixing their political battles with their dislike of foreigners doing business in the area”.

The affected shop owners claimed they had been told by residents to leave the area and “return to their motherland”.

Many have since left Mookgophong. However, some shop owners said they wanted to remove and safeguard their remaining stock.

“We want to remove our stocks but when we are there they throw stones at us,” said Woidhana.

He said five foreign nationals have been injured while attempting to remove their stock from the shops.

A local shop owner, sypathetic to their plight, said she was assisting her foreign counterparts to leave Mookgophong.

“They are afraid that looters will return and finish off their stocks,” said the shop owner, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal.

Woidhana said affected shop owners had rented a space in the central business district, where they hoped to store their goods once they had been able to retrieve them from the shops.

He said so far attempts get assistance from the local police, whom they have asked for an escort, had failed.

Police confirmed that foreign shops were looted. Provincial police, Public Order Police have been deployed to monitor the protests.

At least 22 suspects have been arrested for public violence and malicious damage to property.

[Source: African News Agency]
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