Somali peace blow

Alizwa's grandmother Ntombizanele Pika says the family will accept Somalis once the suspect has been arrested.

Efforts to integrate foreigners, particularly Somalis, into the Khayelitsha community were dealt a crushing blow when another shopkeeper was gunned down in an apparent business robbery on Monday February 27, in Site C.

The Somali, whose identity has not been revealed, was shot and killed by five armed men. The suspects apparently demanded airtime and cigarettes before shooting him and escaped with an undisclosed amount of money.

Khayelitsha police spokesperson Captain Marcellus Rajap told Vukani that five suspects, one of whom was armed, entered the shop around 11am and demanded money, airtime and cigarettes before they shot the man in the chest multiple times.

He confirmed that the victim died instantly and the suspects fled the scene on foot.

“A business robbery case has been opened and we have not yet arrested any suspects,” he said.

The incident brings to six the total number of Somalis killed in Site C, since the start of the year.

But the killing came as no surprise to some residents who accused ward councillor Mabhuti Velem and taxi operators of using underhanded tactics to bring Somalis into the area.

They accused Mr Velem of working with the Somalis against his own constituency.

Since the tragic fatal shooting of Alizwa Makhanda, 7, allegedly by a Somali shopkeeper at the start of the year, Site C has been on a knife edge, with tensions clearly visible between the community and the Somalis. The community has rejected any plans to open further Somali-owned businesses, citing fears for their safety.

However, Mr Velem has denied claims of underhanded tactics, saying it was in the interest of the community and the Somalis to bring unity and harmony in the community. He said as the community leader he could not act against his people. He said the Somalis had approached him to intervene so that they could reopen their businesses which were closed following Alizwa’s killing.

“We can’t force them (Somalis) into the community. We need to negotiate. It is not easy, but we are trying. We want the community to accept them,” said Mr Velem.

Because of the ongoing tensions, he said, they have appealed to homeowners to stop renting out their properties to Somalis for business purposes.

But residents’ accounts of the situation is different from that of Mr Velem.

Chairperson of the residents’ committee, Emma Siyikili, said Shukushukuma residents objected any plans to bring back Somalis. She said they had been in discussions with Mr Velem and some taxi operators about integrating Somalis into the community.

Ms Siyikili said one of the meetings ended prematurely after residents were told Somalis would be moving back into the community. “This is a community issue. We are just their voice,” she said. “They (residents) are clear that they don’t want them here.”

Ms Siyikili said attempts to bring back Somalis while the killer of Alizwa was still at large showed that Mr Velem did not care about “her soul and her family”.

“In fact, at one of the meetings we were told that water which has been spilled on the sand cannot be picked up again,” she said.

Chairperson of the Ward Development Forum, Sakhekile Ceza, said the biggest challenge was to try to integrate a divided Somali community into a disgruntled community, noting that there were underlying ethnic battles among Somalis which added to the problems faced by the community. Mr Ceza said language differences also caused problems and called on Somalis to employ local people to work at their shops.

For the integration to be successful, Mr Ceza said, it was vital for the Somalis to work with community to bring the killer of Alizwa to book. He said residents understood that Somalis had contributed towards the costs of Alizwa’s funeral, but said the perpetrator should be brought to book. “The law must take its course. There is no amount of money that can buy anyone’s blood. Our police must work with their peers in other stations to put the matter to bed. We are trying to bring peace in this community,” said Mr Ceza.

The Agency for Refugee Education, Skills and Training (ARESTA), an organisation which advocates for the rights of foreigners, has denounced the senseless killings of Somali shopkeepers in Khayelitsha and the surrounding areas and said the organisation was stunned by the ongoing attacks on foreigners.

Noloyiso Ntshinga, Aresta’s assistant campaigner manager, said they had been engaging with the Great Commission – an organisation of various churches – and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to find better strategies to address the matter.

She said that in the coming weeks they would conduct training with pastors and neighbourhood watch members in the area to diffuse violence and equip residents with peace-keeping skills.

Ms Ntshinga added that after the training they would host a community imbizo and a peace march to promote the spirit of Ubuntu and cohesion. She said they would constantly visit the area to monitor the situation.

She called on the community to play its part in protecting foreigners. “South Africa is a country within the African continent and Africans from other countries have the right to come here. We need to treat them with dignity and integrity because they are Africans,” she said.