Yesterday, June 20 was World Refugee Day which, unfortunately, was marred by violence and looting in Kraaifontein, a suburb of Cape Town. In the early morning, residents reported the looting of over 200 shops, spazas (informal convenience shops) and homes. All of the shops and homes were foreign-owned, mainly by Somalis and Zimbabweans. In response to the unrest, PASSOP’s director, Braam Hannekom, Lucky, a PASSOP employee, and I went to Kraaifontein to take part in a community meeting.
We arrived in Kraaifontein around 11 am and drove directly to the police station, where the meeting was to be held. Quickly, we spoke with a few Somalis who had been displaced and had fled to the police station to file a claim and seek protection. The Somalis reported that the looting occurred around 1 am.
The meeting began at noon with community leaders, the station commander of the Kraaifontein police station, and those affected by the widespread theft. Over the course of two and half hours, people voiced their opinions ranging from anger to a call on the government and the police to take greater action. In the meeting, the police commander reported that 55 people were arrested during the night and in the morning. However, members of the community reported that the people stood by and watched while thugs stole the entire stock of shops and spazas
After the meeting, we spoke with a Zimbabwean whose house was looted and he lost everything. However, he still had a smile on his face. Despite the lack of police presences during the evening, with a grin the man pointed out one police officer and said that he, the police officer, was one of the good guys. It was amazing to see that in spite of what this man had been through he was still able to remain relatively positive and trusting of the police.