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Somali-owned shops re-open after attacks in South Africa

Several Somali-owned shops re-opened for business on Thursday as a wave of looting and xenophobic violence in South Africa’s coastal city of Port Elizabeth was brought under control.

More than 150 small grocery shops were looted in four days of violence which was sparked by the killing of a 19-year-old South African boy by a Somali shop owner after an argument over cellphone airtime on Sunday.

“No incidents of looting have been reported since last night (Wednesday),” police spokeswoman Brigadier Marinda Mills said.

She added that “police will continue to maintain a high presence” in a number of affected areas.

Police arrested 111 people in connection with the pillaging. The man accused of killing the South African teenager was arrested but later released due to lack of evidence.

Violence spread to several townships in the eastern coastal town.

“Engagements with representatives of the foreign nationals, the community and other stakeholders will continue to make sure peace and calm returns to the area,” said Mills.

But some Somalis said they were still nervous.

“I am still nervous but the police have promised us protection, and some members of the community are supporting us and that is why I am back,” Aran Adbikarin.

Amid widespread poverty and unemployment, frustration in South Africa’s run-down neighbourhoods often boils over into anti-immigrant violence.

An explosion of deadly attacks in 2008 killed more than 60 people and displaced thousands into refugee-style camps.

Locals often accuse foreigners from other African countries of stealing their jobs and women.

Foreign-owned shops are also accused of uncompetitive business, selling their wares at lower prices than their South African counterparts.

South Africa plays host to millions of asylum seekers and refugees from across the continent.