Caught in crossfire while waiting for his laundry to dry – that’s how a 27-year-old man died yesterday, while another met a similar fate hours later and just metres away.
Amid talk of xenophobia, illegal spaza shops, violent looting and protests, a Somalian shop owner apparently misinterpreted a “peaceful” protest and opened fire at residents of Slovo, an informal settlement in Coronationville yesterday.
Residents then angrily demanded police protect them from what they called “dangerous” immigrants in their midst.
But foreigners in this community and several across Johannesburg said they were the ones under constant threat of violence.
According to Oleboheng Khumalo, both deaths were sudden and unprovoked.
“The boy who got shot, he was just passing by because he was doing his washing inside there,” said Khumalo.
“Afterwards he went outside to buy something but one of the Somalians saw the people gathered around and grabbed a gun from one of his friends and started shooting at us. The boy ran for his life and went down a passage – that’s when he was shot.”
As Minister of Police Bheki Cele prepared to address hostel residents in Jeppestown, officers had to rush to a nearby neighbourhood where a fire believed to be caused by hot oil at a spaza shop sparked panic.
Minutes later, Premier David Makhura, Gauteng Democratic Alliance leader Galeb Cachalia and other officials rushed to address Coronationville residents who had witnessed two deaths allegedly at the hands of spaza shop owners.
After the 27-year-old was shot from behind, the ensuing protests led to another shooting with a second man gunned down metres from the informal settlement where the first was shot.
A Nigerian who owns a used car dealership, and asked to remain anonymous, said foreigners in the area were battling to understand why the protesters were torching their businesses.
“Most of the people have left drug dealing and fraud and have gone into selling and buying cars. Now they are destroying these businesses,” he added.