News agency, Cape Town, South Africa
Tuesday October 17th 2017

Tensions rise as Somali traders threaten to ‘fight back’

Somali traders in Khayelitsha are threatening to fight back after local business owners closed about 20 Somali-owned shops Tuesday.

The latest spate of closures follows numerous meetings between Somalis, local business owners, police and community leaders over a recent return to enforcing an agreement drawn between the Zanokhanyo business association and Khayelitsha Somali Retailers Association up in the wake of the 2008 nationwide xenophobic attacks which stated that only pre-existing Somali-owned shops would be allowed to operate in the township.

The enforcement of the agreement in late February has seen the forced closure of a number of Somali owned shops in the area, with at least two shops being looted, but ongoing discussions have seen some of those shops re-opening for trade.

But Somali traders say they have had enough and are threatening to arm themselves and fight back against threats by South African business owners if necessary.

“These people are bringing back xenophobia,” said Trader Mohammed Husan said following a meeting with local business owners in Khayelitsha on Tuesday.

“Last time when they closed my shop I was robbed, people took the opportunity and stole my stuff. If they want a fight we will fight,” he said.

He said at Tuesday’s meeting an 18-member committee with equal representation of Somali and local community members, was created to formulate a solution.

But Husan said he was “tired of their nonsense”.

“We’re here to work. The community is benefiting from us, why they can’t leave us alone? If they’re looking for a war we will fight them.”

But local business owners insist they are not wanting to fight Somali traders, merely ensure the 2008 agreement that stated new Somali-owned shops would only be allowed to trade if approved by local shop-owners and Somalis.

“This is not about racism but as local business owners we are losing our profits to these new shops,” said a South African trader who did not want to be named.

“Their products are very cheap that’s why customers are running to them,” he said.

Referring to the threats and forced closure of Somali shops, he said: “We were only giving them a warning.”

However, he said Somali traders were now threatening to arm themselves and shoot if threatened.

Community leader Reverend Templeton Mbekwa said local business owners had been complaining because the 2008 agreement had not been adhered to, forcing Somalis to shut up shop “was not right”.

Mbekwa said any shop closure should be done by law enforcement officials and the current tension was due to police and the City of Cape Town not enforcing the 2008 agreement.

Somali Retailers Association Spokesperson, Abud Agmad, said the forced closure of Somali shops was “not right”.

Agmad said a committee had been elected at Tuesday’s meeting and they would work toward finding a solution. – Nombulelo Damba

Tags: Abud Agmad, Khayelitsha Somali Retailers Association, Mohammed Husan, nationwide xenophobic attacks, Reverend Templeton Mbekwa, Zanokhanyo Business Association

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