Joburg shopkeepers call for shutdown of hostels

Some of shops were damaged on Sunday when violence erupted after former IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi was heckled by a rowdy crowd in Johannesburg. / THULANI MBELE
Some of shops were damaged on Sunday when violence erupted after former IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi was heckled by a rowdy crowd in Johannesburg. / THULANI MBELE

Business owners in Johannesburg have called on the government to shut down hostels following a wave of violent attacks on foreign nationals.

Shop owners affected by the violence that broke out last week were yesterday still counting their losses.

Store owner Nthakeng Letsoalo, who has been operating in Jules Street, Malvern, said the government needed to close down the hostels in the surrounding area because of the crime levels.

Letsoalo, who ran a fish and chips shop before it was torched on Sunday night, said she was upset that her own countrymen were behind the attack on her store.

"It's a mob from Denver hostel. They came here and burned my store. Last week, they looted food and yesterday (Sunday), they burned it. I am shocked that I am being targeted as well. The hostel needs to be closed because it's a source of criminality."

She estimated that the damage to her shop is worth R600,000. Letsoalo said she felt hopeless because she was not certain whether her insurer would cover her losses.

"I lost catering equipment, fridges, and my stock. I lost everything," she said.

Jose Ramos, 56, who ran a liquor store on the same road, said he estimated a R5m setback after his store was looted and burned more than a week ago.

"I don't have money to reopen this shop so I don't know what to do," said the Portuguese national.

The violence erupted after former IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi was heckled by a rowdy crowd at Murray Park, eastern Johannesburg, before they ran amok in the surrounding CBD.

Police minister Bheki Cele said he was concerned about the persisting unrest in Johannesburg and said the latest wave could have been avoided.

"Yesterday's (Sunday) violence is unfortunate because if things were done properly, I don't think that violence could have given us an upsurge.

"The meeting that we prepare with the leaders of the hostels for some reasons, and after speaking to the [Zulu] king [Goodwill Zwelithini] we called off that meeting," Cele said.

He said he was shocked that the meeting continued despite them calling it off and said it was a party meeting and it happened without his knowledge.

"We were taken aback to see that the meeting continued and that was no longer a government meeting; so no government representative was there. To us, it was a political party meeting."

Cele added that he visited the hostels on two occasions last week and that he was working on a process with the king.

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