RESIDENTS WANT SOMALI SHOP OWNERS BACK

Cape Argus, 26 March 2008

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Some residents of Zwene-themba, outside Worcester, are calling on foreign shop owners - driven out of the area a few weeks ago to return as the area faces a shortage of basic supplies. On Tuesday, Somali leaders and the PAC toured the area and were greeted by cheers by locals, who said they wanted the Somali shop owners to return. Some community members hugged Somalis, pleading with them to come back - and expressed how much they missed them. Children cheered and shouted: "Come back! Come back!" "The moment they left we started suffering as we could not get basic foodstuffs close by," said a community member, who declined to be named. At the moment the community had to travel 5km to Worcester to fetch basics such as bread. Another resident said: "We have no problem with them, what happened is regrettable because now if we want to buy airtime we have to pay R6 to go to Worcester. And we cannot afford that." Other community members said the attack on the Somalis and other foreigners had been the work of youngsters. But some residents said the Somalis were not wel- come, despite the community "suffering". More than a hundred Somalis and other foreigners, who were chased out of the community and had their shops burnt down, are now living on the streets of Worcester. "Even if we go back we do not have the capital to start businesses and we are even struggling to find food," said one Somali who had his shop destroyed. PAC president Letlapa Mphahlele condemned the attack on fellow Africans and the alleged participation of the police in the looting of the shops. He said 90 percent of South African freedom fighters spent more than two decades living in different parts of Africa and were never threatened with death, and were treated with dignity. Mphahlele said the attack on the Somalis was caused by what he called "xeno-afrophobia". "I personally feel guilty whenever our people direct their anger and frustration on fellow brothers and sisters who come here to seek our help." He said locals should be educated on "xeno-afrophobia" to prevent attacks on refugees. The Somalis, who lost 23 shops, have sought legal assistance from the UCT Law Clinic.