By Caryn Dolley
15 June 2009, 19:57
Local traders who sent warning letters to Somali shopkeepers telling them they had to get out of Gugulethu by the end of the week have apologised for their intimidating behaviour. And they now say the Somalis are welcome to stay in the area.
An interim committee of foreign and local traders from Gugulethu, has also been set up to diffuse any tensions which may still arise between the groups.
This was decided during a meeting between local and Somali traders and the police last(mon) night.
When the meeting ended last night, a number of local and Somali traders smiled and shook hands.
They said they were happy with the outcomes of the meeting.
Police had called the meeting, closed to the media, at the weekend after the warning letters were distributed.
Speaking after more than three hours of discussions with the traders, Gugulethu police spokesman Elliot Sinyangana(cor) said the meeting, at times heated, had been successful.
“Those who sent out the letters were here. You could see the anger in their eyes when they spoke. But after hearing from (the Somalis) they have apologised for the letters. They also promised to refrain from any intimidating behaviour.
“They said they had felt pressured into sending the letters but now they see what they have done and feel sorry for it,” he said.
Sinyangana said an interim committee, consisting of five local traders and five Somali ones, had been set up and members would discuss and deal with any grievances brought up by the shopkeepers.
He said police as well as the Anti-Eviction Campaign would also step in if the traders needed guidance or help.
The committee would meet today(tues) and give the traders feedback on Thursday during another meeting.
Earlier, when discussions had still been going on, Mahad Omar Abdi(cor), representing the Somali traders, said local shopkeepers had wanted the Somali traders in the area to increase the prices of their products.
“But if they force us to regulate our prices, it’s not fair to the locals. What about the poor man on the street who can’t afford much and what about the domestic worker who just doesn’t have the extra cash?
“We will be enriching ourselves at their expense,” he said.
Abdi said he felt locals had sent the letters to intimidate Somali traders because they felt they could “get away with it”.
By the end of the meeting a Somali trader, who did not want to be named as he said he still felt uncertain about his safety, said local traders had understood that their Somali counterparts did not want to sell goods at identical prices to the locals.
“They seem to understand now. Things are looking much better,” he said.