Foreign nationals in the eThekwini municipality are fearing that the release of Operation Dudula leader, Nhlanhla “Lux” Dlamini on bail, could spell further trouble for already traumatised shop owners in the area.
An Ethiopian shop owner whose store was looted after the local metro and police authorities denied a march request by Operation Dudula at the weekend, said he lived in fear of criminality and violence from locals, who did not hesitate to turn on foreign nationals in their midst.
Tagse Lamore’s shop in KwaDabeka, was among four stores allegedly targeted on Sunday after Operation Dudula’s plans to march in the East Coast came to a grinding halt.
Lamore said he was fearful of Dlamini, the leader of Dudula, since he was granted R1 500 bail on Monday following his arrest in Johannesburg last week.
He said the incident on Sunday instilled fear and anxiety among foreigners in the area who merely wanted to make a living.
Describing what transpired, Lamore said he was going about his daily business when a mob, led by a group of men, entered his store.
He claimed the men who led the looters into his store, threatened him.
“They removed everything that was there. I was going about my normal day when the group of people stormed into my store.”
He said there were at least four stores that were targeted, all owned by foreign nationals.
“During the earlier unrest, they targeted all the shops, but this time, just one day before they released Lux [Dlamini] from jail, they came and only attacked foreign nationals.”
Lamore said he had been in South Africa for just over two years. He said: “I want people to know that we are not bad people. We are trying, like you, to survive in South Africa. We have normal families and we have to take care of them.”
He said that while he planned to restock his shelves, the incident had left him heartbroken and shocked.
“We know a lot of these people; we speak to them, we see them. I don’t know how people get into a mob and do these things, but it is sad. I have not done anything wrong, I am just trying to get by.”
Police spokesperson, Lieutenant-Colonel Nqobile Gwala, confirmed the incident: “It is alleged that a group of vagrants entered two tuckshops in KwaDabeka and stole some items. The complainants did not desire to open cases.”
WE FACE DAILY CHALLENGES
Desta Liele, leader of the Ethiopians in the Africa Solidarity Network organisation, said foreign nationals had been having a challenging time in Durban for years.
“We are subjected to all kinds of things. We have had to pay people cash for protection money, but they do not protect us from anything. The people that come here are refugees and asylum seekers. They come from trying conditions.”
He said that while Durban was calm at present, the incident involving Lamore was concerning.
“It shows you that they want us gone. You must know they did not have permission to march. But they still went to this man’s shop and took everything they wanted. That is criminality and theft, you cannot do this.”
Liele said policing had to increase and more focus was needed on those who attempted to gather mobs.
“They must find these men before they bring people out on the streets. Once they are here, it is hard to stop them.”
Dlamini is facing charges of housebreaking, theft and malicious damage to property.
Operation Dudula, which started in Johannesburg, saw its followers forcibly close shops that belonged to foreign nationals in townships and town centres.
Dlamini rose to prominence during the July unrest when he helped protect Maponya Mall in Soweto from looters.