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Immigrant shop owners targeted by criminals in Lusikisiki.

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Hawkers’ Association fears immigrants will leave: “The consequences will be terrible for us all”.

Photo of a man in front of his shop
Mmor Mbengu says he was robbed at gunpoint of about R1,700. He says criminals know that immigrant shop owners deal largely in cash. Photo: Sibahle Siqathule

Immigrants operating businesses in Lusikisiki, Eastern Cape, say criminals walk into their shops and demand money. If they do not comply they are threatened with knives and guns.

Abdul Vanny, who owns a barbershop and a laundry business, said, “We are constantly afraid here. We are afraid to open our shops because these guys can come at any time and take money that we have worked hard for … It’s dangerous doing business here. My employee has been held up at knife point on two occasions this year.”

Mmor Mbengu, who owns a clothing store, said, “These thugs are coming after us because they know that we deal with cash. I was robbed at gunpoint and about R1,700 was taken from my till. So I know how dangerous these thugs are.”

Another immigrant, Papa Suor, was shot twice in an attempted robbery of his clothing store in 2016. But he says, “The Community Policing Forum (CPF) here in town is doing a good job. Things have improved since they have taken over. The police need to work together with the CPF to tackle the problem of the remaining criminals.”

Chairperson of the Lusikisiki Hawkers Association Nothobile Biyata said criminals who target immigrants must be dealt with swiftly before they drive away immigrant business owners. “Foreigners provide jobs to our children, they pay rent, they buy food. They contribute a lot in making the lives of people here in Lusikisiki better. This is not how they should be treated. The police must be more visible and protect business in the CBD or the consequences will be terrible for us all.”

Chairperson of the Joe Slovo location CPF, in charge of Lusikisiki CBD, Mandlenkosi KaNgcobo Thambodala said, “We encourage these business owners to come to us and we will work at solving this issue. We are working closely with senior management of the police to clean up this town. Our patrols of Lusikisiki are proving to be very effective at reducing the high levels of crime which are plaguing us.”

Port St Johns police cluster communications officer Captain Nozuko Handile said many cases are not reported. She urged the community to come forward with information which the police could investigate.

Article originally written and published by GroundUp