Cape Town – Somalis fear a xenophobic syndicate is operating in the Western Cape, killing their nationals – 26 in a year to last month.
The combined death toll in the other provinces was 14, said Somali journalist Mohamed Noor, who has been working in South Africa tracking attacks on Somalis for two years.
Last year there were 56 killings in the province by which beating to death with blunt objects was the most common cause, Noor added.
“Generally, South Africa is a hospitable country, with a refugee-friendly constitution. As a refugee you are almost guaranteed free health-care service, freedom of movement, the right of ownership of property, business and are treated equally to all in front of a court of law,” said Noor.
“But there are serious issues to be addressed like the spate of killings against Somali nationals, in which most of the cases appear to be xenophobic or targeted.”
He listed some of the “hot spots” for Somali killings as Khayelitsha, Nyanga, Gugulethu, Philippi and Delft.
The Cape Times is in possession of the 26 death certificates dating to August last year. The certificates list the deaths of the Somalis as “unnatural”.
Police spokeswoman Novela Potelwa said any murder or alleged murder was a big concern, and that it always launched full-scale investigations of any murder.
Potelwa said the “unnatural death” citing did not necessarily mean Somalis were murdered at the hands of South Africans. The department would need to further its investigation to be able to comment on suspicions of a syndicate operation, Potelwa said.
Somali Council of Elders secretary-general Hussein Ali Omar alleged there was a “specific group of people” targeting the Somali community. “It seems attacks on the Somali community are organised. Although the attacks happen in different areas, it seems there are certain groups in the different areas who carry out the murders,” Omar said.
Somali Association of SA provincial spokesman Mohamed Aden said informal traders in the townships, in particular, faced ongoing attacks.
“We have a good relationship with the police. We always work with them to apprehend the suspects responsible for the attacks. But this is an ongoing trend that started in 2008,” Aden said.
Last month, two Somalis died after they were wounded by gunmen as they sat in a car metres from their shop in Elsies River. The men, in their thirties, died in Tygerberg Hospital.
In July, thousands of protesters in Langa moved from Bhunga Avenue to Washington Drive while 53 Somali shops were looted.
Recovering from the incident, Allie Hussein, who still bears a scar in his neck because of a stabbing during the incident, erected heavy metal fencing outside his shop in Langa. During the uproar over housing allocation, protesters looted his shop and broke Hussien’s fridge. He was unable to sell any cold cooldrinks or milk, and that affected his business, he said.
Allie Ahmed, a shopkeeper in Langa, said he lost his brother when armed robbers opened fire at their shop in Kraaifontein last year. He had no choice but to keep trading, as his family in Somalia relied on the income he made here.
The Western Cape Department of Community Safety spokesman, Ewald Botha, said they were consulting about the policing needs and priorities process and that people, irrespective of nationality, were encouraged to attend.