Tensions are running high among foreign business owners in Mfuleni, with at least three business premises having allegedly been set alight in what is believed to be business rivalry.
The businesses, based in shipping containers, were allegedly set alight around 2am, on Tuesday January 3. They belonged to Emmanuel Forson, of Ghana, who was renting them out. However, it is alleged there has been some resistance from the Somali community in the area who are believed to be opposed to other nationals using the premises.
Mr Forson said he received a call from one of his tenants at about 2am informing him that his property was on fire.
He added that he had been embroiled in an argument with some spaza shop owners who had asked that he sell his business to them rather than open another shop in the area.
Mr Forson said they had claimed that if he opened another shop, it would cripple their businesses, and claimed he received countless calls threatening to burn his shop down if he continued to operate.
The 42-year-old said it would cost him around R100 000 to fix the shops.
“And where will I get that money now? I’m shocked that these are foreigners who are being jealous of another foreigner. I’m among the first foreigners in the area who first opened a shop and I had been living in this area from around 2000, running this businesses,” he said.
“Two years ago I closed the shop because I was not making enough profit. But six months ago I re-opened the shop and I decided to allow other Somalians who wanted to run the shop, to run it on the basis that they would rent.”
One of the tenants, Abdi Resak, said he and his cousin had been sleeping when he saw smoke coming from inside the shop. They both rushed outside to save themselves but were unable to salvage any of their belongings. However, he said, they were undeterred by the incident and vowed to build a supermarket.
“We have lost stock worth
R50 000 and we had money which we had not deposited in the bank which has been burnt to ashes as well,” he said.
“We are aware that other Somalians – and Ethiopians – do not want us here but we will run this shop whether they like it or not,” he said.
The incident has left community leaders reeling in shock, and they have vowed to work tireless to resolve the issue before it gets out of hand.
Secretary of the Mfuleni Community Police Forum (CPF), Isabatha Grootboom, said they were aware of the problems, which they believed were linked to jealousy.
He stressed that in the coming weeks they would organise a meeting between community leaders, business people and the police officers with the intention of putting the matter to bed.
Mfuleni police station communication officer Captain Nomathemba Muavha told Vukani that no case has been opened at the station.