Grocott's Mail - - #BRING BACK OUR FRIENDS -

From Page 3

“Of course, their coun­cil­lors must make time to deal with those con­cerns – but this time was called specif­i­cally to ad­dress the ru­mours.”

Seven Foun­tains

The first meet­ing, on Tues­day, was at Seven Foun­tains be­cause that’s where Gra­ham­stown busi­ness­man Tariq Hayat owns a farm.

It was there around mid­day on Thurs­day 22 Oc­to­ber that 150 peo­ple gath­ered.

“They broke my gate,” said Hayat.

He wasn’t there – this was all be­ing re­layed to him by phone by ter­ri­fied staff.

“They said they had got in­for­ma­tion from town that I had dead bod­ies in my house,” he told Gro­cott’s Mail.

Hayat in­structed his em­ployee to give keys for all the build­ings on the prop­erty to three rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the com­mu­nity.

“They went to ev­ery room,” Hayat said. “Ev­ery store­room, ev­ery cup­board.”

They found noth­ing to sup­port their claims.

The crowd’s ac­tion, and Hayat’s re­sponse to it, were ex­tremely sig­nif­i­cant.

In re­cent months, in Gra­ham­stown, sev­eral bod­ies have been found and the po­lice are in­ves­ti­gat­ing those mur­ders.

Fu­elled by gos­sip, and anx­i­ety within com­mu­ni­ties, var­i­ous ver­sions of a ru­mour de­vel­oped. Some of the loot­ers ex­plic­itly re­ferred to the ru­mour at the start of the mob ac­tion on Wed­nes­day 21 Oc­to­ber.

In a pam­phlet re­spond­ing to the ru­mours, the South African po­lice said em­phat­i­cally: “There are no se­rial killers in Gra­ham­stown; There are no ‘body parts’ mur­ders hap­pen­ing in Gra­ham­stown; There has been no gen­i­tal mu­ti­la­tion on any of the bod­ies found in Gra­ham­stown; No for­eign na­tional is a sus­pect or has been ar­rested in con­nec­tion with the bod­ies found. There is no link be­tween for­eign na­tion­als in Gra­ham­stown and the deaths be­ing in­ves­ti­gated.”

Hayat, like many other im­mi­grant busi­ness­peo­ple in this town, has lived here for decades.

Res­i­dent

Orig­i­nally from Pak­istan, he has been here for 20 years and counts him­self as a Gra­ham­stown res­i­dent.

Oth­ers who fled their homes in fear of be­ing tar­geted as “for­eign­ers” come from coun­tries across Africa and Asia.

In their pub­lic state­ment plead­ing for a res­o­lu­tion to the cri­sis, the wives of dis- placed busi­ness own­ers said their hus­bands had come from Bangladesh, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Nige­ria, Pak­istan, Pales­tine, Sene­gal, So­ma­lia, Su­dan and Zim­babwe.

Res­i­dents as­so­ci­ated with 300 busi­nesses in Gra­ham­stown East fled their homes af­ter mobs looted the shops.

The loot­ing be­gan around 11.30am on Wed­nes­day 21 Oc­to­ber, soon af­ter a protest by taxi driv­ers against poor roads ended.

It hap­pened at the same time as a sep­a­rate march by Rhodes Univer­sity staff and stu­dents as part of a cross­cam­pus na­tional day of ac­tion against fee in­creases.

The ac­tions pro­ceeded at op­po­site ends of the town.

No vi­o­lent or crim­i­nal acts were re­ported in con­nec­tion with stu­dent protests against fee in­creases in Gra­ham­stown.

Spo­radic loot­ing con­tin­ued in Gra­ham­stown East over the next few days, some­times but not al­ways ac­com­pa­nied by threats.

Many of the dis­placed res­i­dents have left to stay with friends and fam­ily in other towns. Around 500 are be­ing housed in a safe zone in the area. Gra­ham­stown lead­er­ship in the form of the An­tiXeno­pho­bic Group set up in

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