July 26, 2009 Edition 1
VUYO MABANDLA – Cape Argus
A meeting is to be held today in Gugulethu in a bid to reduce tensions and “extinguish” a rise in xenophobic abuse of Somali traders by locals.
This comes after a series of attacks in Samora Machel last week in which seven Somali shops were forcefully closed down by local traders.
The violence was sparked after a deal reached last month between local and foreign business people failed. In terms of the deal, local and Somali shops should operate at least a hundred metres away from each other. The other part of the deal was that certain products at the shops should be sold at the same price.
Anti-Eviction Campaign co-ordinator Mncedisi Twalo, who will be the mediator at today’s meeting, said it was also decided last month that no new businesses would be opened after the deal came into effect at the beginning of this month.
Cape Town mayor Dan Plato was reportedly aware of the violence in Samora Machel and said the city was on “high alert”.
Twalo said that at the base of the problem was a local hatred for foreign nationals.
“That’s one of the issues we will look to sort out. We want to find ways to extinguish xenophobia and prevent a thing like this from spreading to other provinces.”
The Anti-Eviction Campaign blamed the government, saying it was responsible for the problem.
A statement on its website says: “The unhappiness of local business people is justified, but this unhappiness is being directed at other poor people instead of at the government and the corporations who are the root cause of our problems.”
By late yesterday, the South African Association of Somalis had not confirmed it would attend today’s meeting. But landlords, church leaders, police representatives, local business associations, traders and shop owners, and councillors from seven communities said they would be there.
“We want to ensure that every part of agreements concluded by the concerned parties is implemented, until the situation is a thing of the past,” said Twalo.
Meanwhile, a service delivery protest by Khayelitsha informal settlers was being planned for the beginning of next month.
Mzonke Poni, also a member of the Anti-Eviction Campaign, said residents had been expecting a response from Plato to a list of demands delivered to him last week and were “becoming restless”.
He also mentioned the issue of foreigners occupying RDP houses, sometimes let to them by poor locals.
“People have to make money and that sometimes means people have to rent out their state-given property. But some people aren’t happy about that,” Poni said.