Tuesday August 21, 2018
He narrowly escaped death when his tuck shop was set alight, allegedly by residents, but Somalian businessman Mohamed Ali is not giving up.When the Sunday Tribune arrived at the scene, which had been cordoned off by police, Ngema and her sister, Thoko, were hard at work, cleaning up the debris. The roof had been blown away and walls were blackened.
“I'm not going to run away. I will have to find ways to rebuild my business. I have nowhere to go,” he said after the incident on Thursday.
Ali has been doing business in Inanda for five years.
Two other shops owned by foreign nationals were also torched and others were looted.
Recounting the incident, Ali said a group of men stormed his store just after 2pm and ordered him to leave.
“My head spun because I didn’t know what I had done wrong. They threw me outside,” he said.
Perplexed, Ali said he stood outside his premises as the men started setting his shop alight.
“What also pained me is that I stashed R25000 in the store which I was going to use to buy stock. When my shop went up in flames, I knew that my money was gone.”Ali said it was the first such situation he had experienced since his arrival in Durban in 2013.
Ali’s landlady, Sdudla Ngema, lambasted the culprits for targeting foreign-owned shops. She urged the police to act swiftly.
Ngema said it was obvious that the “barbaric act” was targeted only at foreign nationals because no locally-owned tuck shops were torched.
Ngema said the shop had been built by her late father some decades ago but they decided to rent it out when they could not sustain the business.
“Our livelihoods depend on the store to feed our families,” she said.
Ali said he had lost more than R180000 as a result of the fire. Looking at the damage, he said it could cost him close to R500000 to rebuild and refurbish the stock.
It is believed that, earlier on Thursday, the North Region Business Association (Norba), which caters for Inanda, Ntuzuma and KwaMashu (INK), held a meeting at which it is claimed businesses accused government officials, including KwaZulu-Natal’s Premier Willies Mchunu, of failing to address their demands.
Tensions ran high in May after Norba sent out letters instructing foreign-owned tuck shops in the INK area to close.
Norba also demanded that every tuck-shop owner, including foreign nationals, be registered on a database and be certified.
This, they said, was aimed at preventing the cropping up of new businesses in every corner of the townships.
Attempts to get comment from the business forum were unsuccessful as their phones rang to voicemail and none responded to questions.
The premier’s spokesperson, Thami Ngidi, has condemned the attacks, saying they were nothing but criminality.
“The burning of shops had nothing to do with the process of registration. These are just pure criminal elements hoping to achieve fame.”
In a bid to prevent further violence, Ngidi said the premier had called an urgent meeting between stakeholders.
“We accept that there are problems in the manner in which we have tried to handle this issue.
“But we appreciate that we are dealing with honest negotiators,” Ngidi said.
Police spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Thulani Zwane said charges of public violence were being investigated.
“Two shops were set alight and others were looted and damaged. The motive of the attack has not yet been established.”
Zwane said a suspect had been arrested for being in possession of stolen property.