Soweto lootings: why did they happen and what are the cops doing?

16 August 2019 - 10:13 By Cebelihle Bhengu
Residents of Jabavu in Soweto loot a foreign-owned tuck shop on August 29 2018.
Residents of Jabavu in Soweto loot a foreign-owned tuck shop on August 29 2018.
Image: Thulani Mbele

Foreigners who own spaza shops in Soweto are counting their losses after floods of attacks which led to scores of their businesses being burnt down, and their goods looted.

The areas of the township which have been affected include Zola, Zondi, Emdeni and Moletsane.

The motive for the attacks, which began on Wednesday, is unclear. Some attribute it to the alleged economic exclusion of locals by foreigners, while others say it is to avenge recent attacks on police in the city centre about two weeks ago. 

A resident from Meadowlands told TimesLIVE that his community was not against foreigners but lamented that they “get away with illegality” by staying in the country without the right documentation.

“It's not like we don't want them here, but we want them to abide by the rules, like being here legally. Most of our brothers and sisters are unemployed - yet they [the foreigners] open a shop on each and every corner.”

White City resident Tsepo Lehohla asked, “How can people from out of this country attack our police officers? People in other countries would not tolerate that.” 

Meanwhile, the South African Human Rights Commission has condemned the attacks, and pleaded with the communities to refrain from participating in criminality. 

“The commission calls on everyone to respect and uphold the rule of law and refrain from criminal actions, particularly when such acts are directed against vulnerable groups. The commission is of the view that there is no justification for the incidents of looting which occurred.”

Capt Kay Makhubela, of SAPS, told TimesLIVE that investigations which would lead to arrests were under way.