From pan into fire for Somalis in SA

The death toll of Somalis killed in the Western Cape increased to 30 in a space of only two months last week after three Somalis were murdered within three days of each other.

Police spokesman, Captain Elliot Sinyangana said two men had been killed in separate attacks in Du Noon last weekend only two days after another Somali national was stabbed to death in the same area.

Sinyangana said murder was being investigated in all three cases.

The attacks have raised the spectre of violence in the Western Cape to extreme levels, and have shocked the area’s Somali community that now says it is being deliberately targeted.

Somali shop owners in the Western Cape say they have been the prime targets of the xenophobic attacks which have rapidly increased over the past two months.

“There is a civil war in our country as everybody knows and we believed South Africa was a better place.

“But sometimes it is even worse than back home. And it is ordinary people doing this against us. Some are proposing that we get our own (independent) country. But we would rather die in our own country. In our country it’s common violence, but here it is directed at Somalians,” Somali national Hadith Haji Adam, told the Cape Times after a recent attack.

Adam is one of more than 30 Somalis who own shops and businesses in the Western Cape.

Official statistics show that 85 Somalis have been killed in South Africa since 1997, 30 of these have died in the two months since July.

The Somali Association of South Africa (Sasa) says the number could actually be higher due to lack of communication between law enforcement officials and the department of Home Affairs.

Sasa director Ahmed Dawlo believes the number could be as high as 300.

When violence against the foreigners began to rise two months ago, at least 27 of the more than 30 Somali owned shops in Masiphumelele were forced to close, as the owners of the shops fled for their lives.

Police say they have received reports of midnight attacks on Somali owned shops and houses, allegedly carried out by “jealous and ignorant local businessmen” who believe the Somalis are ruining their businesses.

Community members have also confirmed that the majority of the attacks are being carried out by local shop owners.

“They are complaining that they (Somalis) are taking away their businesses. The Somalians have lower prices and when we see people buying in cheaper places we will follow. We like their prices, they even allow us to buy on credit,” a Masiphumelele resident said.

Local government officials have heavily criticised the xenophobic attacks.

“We condemn this type of crime, which has some xenophobic tendencies to it. Crime committed against anyone in our country, it does not matter whether one is a South African, an asylum seeker or a refugee, will be dealt with directly,” Provincial Community Safety MEC said in a statement.

“Our laws protect all of our people’we will strengthen police visibility at key points and areas which have been identified as (having) potential for further attacks,” he said.

The South African government has struggled to counter widespread reports of violent xenophobic attacks on foreigners from Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Somalia, where the majority of immigrants in the country are believed to be coming from.

Home Affairs officials have tried in vain to convince locals that the immigrants would help “contribute to local economic growth and development.”

The situation has been worsened by the absence of a Somali High Commission or Embassy in South Africa, a situation Dawlo says is because “the Somali interim government is not stable so there are no diplomatic missions in South Africa”.

“We act as an organisation that looks after the interests of Somalis. We also liaise with the departments of home affairs and foreign affairs,” Dawlo said.

September 2006
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