Hundreds of foreign nationals have fled Dunoon fearing xenophobic attacks after nearly 200 of their shops were looted by protesters.
Yesterday, those shopowners brave enough to return brought trucks and bakkies to transport their remaining stock to safety.
Hell broke loose in the area on Sunday night when demonstrating residents turned on foreigners after they received an unsatisfactory response from the City of Cape Town.
Two weeks ago, hundreds of backyarders marched to the city demanding land for housing, claiming rent from landlords was too high.
On Sunday, the City told them there was no land available, sparking the looting of at least 160 spaza shops, hair salons, hardware stores and cellphone repair shops among others.
The City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Human Settlements, Councillor Benedicta van Minnen, says: “They [protesters] are demanding land for housing from the City but this is not possible.
“There are no large tracts of land available in Dunoon, all open space in and around Dunoon has been appropriated by the community already.”
Van Minnen says protesters were told more than 1 800 housing opportunities are planned for Dunoon beneficiaries in line with the City’s Housing Allocation Policy.
Ward Councillor Lubabalo Makeleni says he was informed late on Sunday night that protesters were unhappy about the City’s response and planned to target foreign national shops.
“It was chaos, only one section wasn’t affected because the residents stood up and refused to take part in it,” he says.
“We understand the issue of overcrowding and I had warned the City that we were sitting on a ticking time bomb and now it has exploded and it’s difficult to contain.
“But our people need to understand that looting the shops of foreign nationals will not bring us houses or land, it diverts the attention from the real issues and it becomes an issue about the lootings.”
Yesterday burnt rubble littered the streets of the congested area, as many looted shops stood open and empty.
Protesters also blocked school children and workers from leaving the area in public transport.
Police spokeswoman Constable Noloyiso Rwexana says a case of public violence is being investigated.
“Twelve suspects were arrested on Sunday night and are expected to appear in court once charged,” she says.
Shopkeepers tell the Daily Voice they were trapped inside their homes on Sunday night, unable to protect their shops for fear of getting attacked.
John Kanyanda, 38, from the Democratic Republic of Congo says he was roused by his frantic brother.
“He told me there was chaos and that they had broken into my shop and taken everything,” he says.
“There was stock of well over R120 000 I lost.
“And this is not the first time I have been targeted, in 2008 during the xenophobia attacks we had to flee and I’m afraid this is what is happening all over again.
“I don’t know if I will be able to rebuild, I have three children and very few resources that will allow me to support my family and after this I don’t even know if we’ll be welcome back here.”
Grocery shop owner Amina Omar, 27, returned to the area yesterday to collect her stock.
“I’m removing my stuff because we don’t feel safe here,” says the Somali national.
“I’ve been through this before in 2008 and don’t want to wait until what little I have is taken away.
“Last night these guys came in and threatened us, all I could do was grab my three children and run, praying I would find everything still intact.
“I don’t even know if I can come back to this community that keeps targeting us when they have issues with the government, we are tired of being their victims, and we are not safe here.”
MEC for Community Safety, Dan Plato has condemned the violence and the lootings and says his office “will keep and eye out on the situation”.