'WE DON'T KNOW IF THEY ARE REACHING FOR A GUN OR A WALLET'

Cape Argus, 26 August 2007

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It's been a month since a Somali has been killed in the city, but the Somali community in the Western Cape still lives in fear. They have been victims of murder, robberies and beatings by local youths. The reasons are not clear, but it has been noted that many Somalis run successful shops in the townships, often undercutting local traders. However the Somalis say they are the ones who are targeted, despite the fact other foreigners also own shops in the townships. "We don't know why they kill us. We thought they wanted our money, but they don't take it - they just shoot us and run away," said Mohamed Siyad Sanwein. Sanwein is a shopkeeper at Ayanda Cash Store in White City, Nyanga, where 21-year-old Somali Mohamed Malin Mohamed died a month ago after two youths shot him and fled empty-handed. Last week Weekend Argus visited Nyanga, the country's murder capital according to the national crime statistics released by the National Department of Safety and Security covering April 2006 to March 2007. We spoke to Somalis to find out how they felt about life in the Western Cape. The traders said while they might appear to be operating as usual and that all was well, this was a false impression. "We are hurting inside," said one. Some were even thinking of leaving South Africa to go back home. "We came to South Africa after we heard this country was a peaceful country," said Ibrahim Awale. But now Awale said he was planning to leave at the end of the year - provided he has survived long enough. "I want to leave and go back to my country in December, I can't stay here." He paused and then added with a sigh: "If I don't die before that time." Mohamed Shidane, 24, said: "We are living a very bad life here and the South African government is not making life any easier, because they can't even give us permits to live here. "The police respond very late when something happens - they only arrive when the person has died." The Somalis are puzzled that they are the only group targeted by xenophobic South Africans. "Why kill only Somalis, why? We have Nigerians, Zimbabweans and Malawians but why only us?", Sanwein asked. The shopkeepers said it was impossible to tell who was a genuine customer and who was not. "We are worried as we don't know when they put their hands in the pocket whether they will produce a gun or a wallet," said Sanwein.