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Land Party accused of extortion, threats

A foreign national living in Zwelihle says foreigners are living in fear of losing their livelihoods after threats about looting shops surfaced.

The man who asked that his name and nationality should not be revealed also claims that threats allegedly made by Land Party leader Gcobani Ndzongana is sowing division among foreign nationals of various nationalities.

The man says he received a recording where Land Party leader Gcobani Ndzongana can be heard allegedly making threats against businesses owned by foreigners.

“He said that looting will take place on 7 March, the day after he appears in court,” said Roger (not his real name).

Hermanus Times is in possession of the recording and Ndzogana has confirmed that it is him speaking on the recording. On the recording, Ndzogana is heard saying shops owned by foreign nationals need to be reduced by closing the shops.

Ndzogana says the Zwelihle community has threatened violence against foreign shop owners, but adds that the Land Party will not allow this to happen. “This is why a number of foreign shops will be closed.” He denied claims that shops will be looted today (Thursday 7 March). He however warns that if something is not done about the current situation, there will be xenophobic attacks in Zwehlihle.

He says there are currently 29 shops owned by Somalians, 56 shops owned by Ethiopians and only eight shops owned by locals.

Roger, who settled in Zwelihle more than five years ago, says he and several other foreigners “lost everything” when their shops and homes were looted during the violent riots that erupted in 2018.

“People asked us to come back because we sell products at a lower price than other shops, but when we reopened they wanted to loot again.”

“This man who started all the violence, Gcobani, asked us money for protection. All of us combined money to pay. The first time we gave R7 000, the second we paid R25 000,” Roger claims. “After that we had to pay more money on four or five occasions.”

Roger says he reported the matter to the police but never received a case number or any further feedback.

“The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) wants a case number so they can help us relocate but because we don’t have case numbers they could not assist is.

“We knew what they were doing (by asking us protection money) is illegal but we had to pay to protect our lives and belongings.

“We are asylum seekers, we are not sure what our rights are.”

Ndzogana, however, says if there are claims of extortion, it must be reported to the police. “Hermanus Times is not the police.”

Roger says the only time when the foreign nationals felt safe, was when Police Minister Bheki Cele put up a police base camp next to the clinic in Zwelihle.

Brigadier Donovan Heilbron, Overberg District Commander, says they are aware of the alleged threats of looting.

“Our Crime Intelligence Division is busy verifying the information we have received and if it is found to be true, the necessary precautions will be put in place,” he stated. “We are also aware of the alleged incidents of extortion but unfortunately nobody has come forward to lay a charge.”

Heilbron has invited members of the public who have been threatened, intimidated or have been the victims of extortion to visit him or Lieutenant Colonel Muneeb Africa at the police station or to call him on 082 856 1678.

“The same applies to those who are not satisfied with the way cases have been handled,” he added.

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