25 March 2019


Temporary relief shelters for homeless foreign business owners

by: Nthusang Lefafa   date: 26 April 2018

Two temporary relief shelters have been set up in Mahikeng to assist foreign business owners who were left homeless by violent protests in Mahikeng. 
The Islamic Relief Fund and North West Scouts in partnership with Mahikeng FM have set up two relief camps for destitute foreign nationals in Bokone Bophirima’s capital.
One camp is located at the Scouts Centre in Cookes Lake. It houses Ethiopian shop owners. The other is at an Islamic Centre in the Mahikeng CBD.
But these organisations have also asked the people of Mahikeng to open their homes as more foreign businessmen seek a safe place.
Over 500 businesses that are owned by foreign nationals have been affected by the protests after some protesters turned on them and looted the shops. No less than 1000 foreign business owners have been displaced as a result of vandalism in Mahikeng and surrounding villages.
Community leader, Advocate Ashraful Karim, who spoke on behalf of these businesspeople, told Semphete that they need a secure environment where they can operate without fearing for their lives.
“We are not interested in politics, but we need a place where we can conduct our business without getting robbed or fearing for our lives. Foreign nationals are providing an important service because we are selling our goods in hard to reach areas. This means that we are saving villagers a lot of money in terms of transport costs by opening up tuck shops in areas where they live. All we require is assurance from police that we will be safe in our business areas because we would like to return to the areas we were operating from,” Karim said.
Ethiopian business owner, Tigitsu Kifile, said he no longer feels safe in Mahikeng. 
“I am in constant fear for my life after what happened to us. The protestors rushed into my business and demanded that I leave the premises. I did not leave with anything but the clothes I had on. They took my money, stock and burnt the house I lived in. What is sad is that we did not know where some of our family members are. I have not seen anything like this in my life and I am still scared,” he said. 
Scouts South Africa said they have noted with great concern the situation in Mahikeng and surrounding villages. As an international organisation of volunteers, the Scouts said it is their duty to serve all communities they live in.
“We have noted the dire situations our foreign nationals find themselves in as a result of current protests in the capital. We would firstly like to appeal to our communities to extend their hands and help where possible. We also would like to request for donations of any kind that could be of assistance to the cause.
“The community can help by providing a place to sleep, food or blankets for the shop owners who now find themselves homeless. These can be dropped off at the Montshiwa Cultural Village or our Provincial Headquarters Baden Powel Hall (next to Mahikeng Mall) in the CBD,” said Scouts SA in a statement. 
The business owners told Semphete that they have lost all their important documentation such as asylum permits, business certificates and passports. They said they are looking up to the African National Congress (ANC) and Bokone Bophirima Provincial Government to help them get back on their feet again.