Shopkeeper prays that violence will not resurface

ABDI Ismail believes prayer has saved his shop in the Ramaphosa informal settlement in Ekurhuleni.

A Somali national Ismail told Sowetan that renewed threats of xenophobic attacks resurfaced more than a month ago.

"Someone once came into my shop and told me the sooner I leave, the better. I have faith. I haven't stopped praying since," Ismail said yesterday.

He said he lost thousands of rands when his three shops were ransacked and destroyed in May 2008. He now runs one shop.

"My shop has been virtually empty because I had to buy less stock in case something happened. P eople have been asking why I don't have stock. They still need mielie meal and milk."

Ismail said the area was still peaceful though there were threats that the violence could flare up again after the World Cup that ended on Sunday.

Police remain on high alert. Though fewer vans patrolled the area yesterday compared with Sunday, a helicopter flew over the settlement.

More officers would be deployed in the evenings, Reiger Park police spokesperson Toni Perifort said.

A community meeting was held on Sunday to address fears of attacks.

Held in an open space where a taxi rank and a shopping centre were supposed to have been built, residents lashed out at community leaders and ward councillor Craig Bennetts about the slow pace of service delivery.

Pamphlets announcing the meeting stated the community leadership's commitment to "stand in unity against xenophobia and any other crime".

"Service delivery will not be used as an issue in xenophobic attacks," the pamphlet read.

Yet dissatisfaction about the lack of delivery dominated the meeting. Residents complained bitterly about the lack of proper housing, shortage of schools, health and recreational facilities and bad roads.

But residents were ambivalent about xenophobia. Some jeered when Dennis Mpangane, president of International Community Unifiers, an organisation for foreign nationals, tried to address the crowd.

Reverend Tseko Saule was dismayed when residents put up their hands when he asked if any were capable of inflicting harm on others.

But the crowd cheered when a resident said it would not be in their interests to drive away foreigners.

"We drove them away two years ago but brought them back because of hunger and allowed them to rent in our backyards. We must not confuse things," the man said.