Police last night acted swiftly in Grahamstown to support residents taking a stand against would-be looters.
Police last night acted swiftly in Grahamstown to support residents taking a stand against would-be looters.Immigrant shopkeepers, who lost stock and assets and fled looting in the town on 21 and 22 October this week expressed fear that looters would strike again.
Last night, Grahamstown Crime Intelligence Office Captain Milanda Coetzer said there had been talk in the town that looting would take place again today; however, communities took a stand against what they recognised as sheer criminality.
“Part of the community has taken a stand against a smaller group within the community who thought they could loot foreign shops again,” Coetzer said in a statement at 8.30pm Thursday 19 November.
“SAPS mobilised and, with Hi-Tec, ensured the safety of shops and shopkeepers in Grahamstown and Joza.”
Coetzer said tha in most instances, shops had been cleared and locked and shopkeepers left with all their goods.
“No looting took place in Grahamstown,” Coetzer said. "These intentions of a group of the community is clearly seen for what it is – criminal intent and action.
“Grahamstown SAPS, and clearly the larger part of the community, will not tolerate lawlessness.”
Following reports from several sources that looting was taking place in several parts of Grahamstown’s townships, Grocott’s Mail sought first-hand reports from people on the ground.
Our person in Hooggenoeg said, around 8.30pm, “I’m standing here in 7th Avenue and there is a crowd gathered here.
“The police are escorting shop owners who had returned to their shops, and are wanting to leave following rumours of more intended looting.
“It’s more of a spectacle for the crowd than that the crowd seem to be a threat. The atmosphere here is not threatening.
“The police have apparently gone to all the spaza shops that have reopened and said they would escort them if they wanted to remove their goods. Basically they are just making sure everything stays calm.
“Both police and Hi-Tec are out here.”
Our reporters drove around various parts of Joza last night.
They said it seemed to be the same as in Hooggenoeg: not so much that looting was happening, but rather police have acted to prevent it – or given those shopkeepers fearful of looting a safe passage out of the area with their goods.
During interviews with Grocott's Mail earlier this week, foreign shop owners who have re-opened for business say that some people have threatened to loot their shops later on this month and in the beginning of December.
Speaking exclusively to Grocott’s Mail, they said it was good to be back in their shops and running their businesses, but they still feared the worst.
As a result, most of those who had returned were reluctant to buy a lot of stock, because they were afraid of its being taken.
Nasir Uddin who runs Rudel Family Shop in Joza, said some people were happy they had returned, but there were those who still continue to threaten them.
"Some have come to the shop and said they are coming back to loot on 23 November. Those who said those words were asking why have we come back.
"It's the young people and also not all of them. These are a few individuals who are still threatening us," said Uddin.
He said he and his family are still uncomfortable after what happened, and hearing threats like that didn't help them feel any better.
However, he said most people were on their side and they had received assurances from the community and police that if something happened they must report it straight away.
The family returned to their shop last Sunday and, since then, people had been coming to buy.
However, Uddin mentioned an incident where a customer bought bread and left the shop only to come back a few minutes later saying that the amount of bread was too small.
Uddin's cousin was behind the counter and said the man shouted at him and threw the bread at his face.
All the stock they have now has been bought with money sent as a loan from contacts in Bangladesh.
Rabiah Hissan of Extension 8, who is married to a Bangladeshi immigrant, also referred to the 23 November rumours.
She said because of that threat, she had advised her husband not to return to his shop yet.
"I am afraid that he could be hurt if he comes back.
"I am confused about what is happening now. We living in fear since we have heard that on 23 November our shops will be looted again.
"My husband is still in the safe zone because I'm still not yet comfortable. He comes back here during the day. He has a bakkie and they could set it alight if he slept here," said Hissan.
She said she had seen some of those who started the looting. She said they can't even look her in the eye when they go past the shop.
Mohammed Akhtar, who also opened his shop on Friday13 November, said the majority of people who came to his shop were happy he had returned.
However, he also said that there was talk that they would be attacked again on 23 November and 1 December .
"Some have not returned since they are still scared of what may happen. They told us that they are coming back to attack us again," said Akhtar.
Shelves in the shops were not fully stocked and owners say they are reluctant to put out more, in case it is taken by looters.
Plus they have replaced things like fridges, beds, clothes and there are concerns that these might also go.
Responding to questions about looming attacks, Makana Municipality Social Services Director, Mandisi Planga, said that the police would handle such eventualities.
"We need to make the point that there are laws in this country and part of the responsibility of the police is law enforcement," he said.
Grahamstown Police spokesperson, Captain Mali Govender, said the police had plans in place to deal with any further outbreaks of looting and that anyone doing such a thing would be dealt with severely.
"The community needs to understand that threatening someone is a crime, and acts of criminality will not be tolerated by the SAPS."
She said residents could help them clamp down on potential looters.
"Our community needs to work closely with the police to get rid of criminals and criminal activities. Planning a crime is an extremely serious offence," Govender said.
Planga said the municipality had been interacting with the community through public meetings. In these meetings, they had emphasised the importance of establishing street committees.
"There is interaction between us and the public to convince them to create conducive conditions for foreign nationals to return," he said.