Felex Share Senior Reporter
The looting of foreign-owned shops in Soweto, South Africa, indicates that the country needs robust economic empowerment policies that benefit the black majority, political analysts have said. Ordinary people argued that actions by black South Africans posed a big threat to African unity.
A 14-year-old boy was allegedly shot dead by a Somali shopkeeper in Snake Park on Monday when a mob reportedly tried to rob a foreign-owned shop.
The incident sparked protests and locals looted foreign-owned shops, forcing some shop-owners to flee.
The incident has raised fears of the return of the xenophobic attacks in which 62 foreigners were killed, while thousands others were displaced during similar attacks in May 2008.
Xenophobic attacks have recurred since then, with shops and vehicles belonging to foreigners being targeted.
Political analyst Mr Alexander Rusero said the latest looting was an indication that a majority of blacks were in need of economic empowerment.
As such, he said, a robust economic policy that empowered blacks should be put in place.
“What is happening should be located in the context of bigger politics of black empowerment,” he said.
“Blacks in South Africa and other countries have been marginalised a lot. The looting is all about social exclusion of blacks in the economic matrix of South Africa. At the end, the only solution the locals in that country are having is to retaliate.”
Mr Rusero added: “If one looks at the looting vis-à-vis the shooting, you will see that unless there is a robust policy in terms of black empowerment, we will have many such incidents. Another issue is, where do we locate ourselves in terms of renaissance because we go silent when such a thing happens? If it was in some countries you would see vigils being conducted. There is need to address the NCA struggle thrust, that is, empowering blacks. That is why Julius Malema is becoming popular.”
Harare based commentator Mr Godwine Mureriwa said as much as South Africa was considered a big economy on the African continent, the economy was skewed in favour of the white minority.
“There has always been a ticking time bomb in South Africa even as they are considered a big economy,” he said.
“It is an economy skewed in favour of the minority whites and there are simmering tensions on the part of blacks. This has manifested itself in the formation of the Economic Freedom Fighters. Yes, the shooting has triggered the looting but it has also provoked tensions that have been lying low.”
He went on: “South Africa is unstable and if you look at the number of murders, thefts and robberies everyday, it is a sign that things are not well. Black people in turn direct their energies at fellow Africans and other foreigners.
“This is a challenge for President Zuma in terms of the quest for economic empowerment. It has become an undeniable fact and you have heard him acknowledging the importance of land reform saying the willing buyer, willing seller was not working. The only way they can fight the situation is having a radical approach, putting in place laws that are in favour of the majority blacks.”
Another analyst, Dr Lawton Hikwa said the South Africans feel their economic space has been invaded by foreigners.
“Despite being a stable economy and a fairly emerging democracy, economic refugees in that country run businesses there that take the space of locals,” he said.
“They have done very well as a country in terms of legislation but there are immigrants of all sorts who override them and take their opportunities. The fact is the locals feel their opportunities are being taken away by people who do not belong there. We might feel the South Africans are being unfair but any economic empowerment programme is drawn for the locals of that country and not foreigners. There is an issue if that opportunity is taken away.”
A city businessman Mr Thomas Zondo said; “The problem with most black South Africans is they lack entrepreneurial skills. They want whites to do everything for them including growing, preparing and selling food to them. That is why a majority of them do not want to see fellow Africans taking those opportunities in that country.”