South Africa calls for order as 153 arrested for looting foreign-owned shops; Somalis targeted

The violence has resurrected the spectre of the deadly xenophobia around Johannesburg's townships in 2008 that left 62 people dead.

SOUTH African President Jacob Zuma has called for order to be restored after mobs looted dozens of stores owned by foreign nationals in Johannesburg’s Soweto township, leading to 153 arrests.

“The President has instructed the Security Cluster in Cabinet as well as the provincial and local government… to work together to bring the situation under control and work towards restoring normalcy,” his office said in a statement Friday.

Police said 153 people have been arrested since the looting began after a foreign shopkeeper shot dead a teenager who allegedly tried to rob him on Monday night in the township.

“Young boys wanted to rob a shop and the owner opened fire and killed one of them,” police spokesman Kay Makhubela told AFP. “That made the community angry, and that’s what started all this.”

At least 80 shops, most of them owned by Somalis, have been looted over the past few days, he said.

The violence has resurrected the spectre of the deadly xenophobia around Johannesburg’s townships in 2008 that left 62 people dead.

Dozens now face charges of public violence—including a police officer reportedly caught on film participating in the looting, Lieutenant-General Lesetja Mothiba, police commissioner of South Africa’s economic hub Gauteng, said at a press conference Friday.

Police have also confiscated fridges and groceries valued at thousands of rands.

Mothiba blamed “youth who are addicted to drugs” for “taking advantage of this situation”.

“They are targeting specific items from the shops, cigarettes, airtime and cash,” said Mothiba.

With poverty and unemployment widespread, frustration in Johannesburg’s run-down neighbourhoods often boils over into anti-immigrant violence.

A second person was killed on Wednesday night, but police said they were still investigating the circumstances. 

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