Attacks on foreign shopkeepers in Grahamstown continuing
There has been no let-up in attacks on and the looting of foreign-owned shops in Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape which started on Wednesday‚ the Unemployed People’s Movement (UPM) claimed on Saturday.
“While the students were making history in Grahamstown‚ and around the country‚ and giving us all new hope‚ shopkeepers from Bangladesh‚ Ethiopia and Pakistan‚ Somalia came under sustained attack. The attacks are continuing this morning‚” UPM said in a statement.
It added that when the attacks started on Wednesday only Muslim migrants were being targeted. By Friday night the attacks had spread to include all shopkeepers from other countries.
“A Nigerian shopkeeper lost everything last night.” The attacks were apparently triggered by recent murders in the area that were blamed on a Pakistani shopkeeper.
“In recent months six bodies have been found in open ground‚ five of them women. The women were found naked and had been raped. One of the bodies had been mutilated. The police do not suspect a serial killer. There was also an attempted rape at the Engen garage in Beaufort Street.
“People have been scared and rumours have been running high. The rumours have said that all the bodies were mutilated‚ that more bodies have been found and have blamed the murders on a shopkeeper from Pakistan. It was rumoured that body parts were being stored in his fridge‚” UPM said.
It said the men that had allegedly attempted to rape the woman at the garage were South African but it was rumoured that they had been sent by this same man.
“People started to speak of what they believed was a serial killer as ‘an Arab’‚ a ‘man with a beard’. They then started to blame all the Muslim shopkeepers including people from Bangladesh‚ Ethiopia and Somalia‚” UPM explained.
It added that it had raised the matter with the police‚ municipality and other instances on several occasions‚ warning of the possibility of xenophobic attacks and calling for urgent intervention‚ but that no action had been taken.
On Wednesday‚ people began looting shops owned by foreigners. The looting continued on Thursday and Friday and was still happening on Saturday morning‚ UPM said.
It added that on Saturday morning people were going “door to door trying to sell looted materials”.
“It is clear that there are people with business interests of their own who are driving this.
“This is a serious crisis. We request all the political parties to put aside their sectarianism‚ to take this seriously and to work together to stop these attacks and to ensure the safety and freedom of all residents of our town. We are very encouraged to see that students are taking up this issue‚” UPM said.