ANGRY residents of Giyani in Limpopo have gutted five shops after one of the owners and his staff allegedly beat up a suspected fraudster to death – for trying to collect goods with a fake receipt.
Apparently retaliating against the killing of a Zimbabwean national allegedly by five men, a group of locals looted shops, destroyed property and shut down the north-eastern town’s central business district on Thursday.
Giyani police spokesperson Warrant Officer Thomas Makhubela said the incident happened at the local Big Five Supermarket.
This was after staff caught three men allegedly trying to collect goods with fraudulent slips on Tuesday.
They called the owner to the scene, who instructed them to assault the trio.
One of the Zimbabwean nationals was left for dead inside the supermarket’s shelves, Makhubela added.
Two were rescued by the police and rushed to Nkhensani Hospital.
“Apparently the suspects noticed that the receipt they tried to use to collect goods was fake. They grabbed the victims and beat them up. When police arrived, one of them was already late,” said Makhubela.
He said the murder sparked protests on Wednesday, a day after the incident, with residents burning and looting shops.
Makhubela said five men have appeared in the Giyani Magistrate Court on charges of murder in connection with the case.
The case was postponed to June 31 for a formal bail application.
Makhubela said investigations were continuing.
He appealed to aggrieved shop owners and other victims of crime to “not take the law into their own hands. They must report crime to the police.”
The Giyani CBD was deserted this week, with most shop owners closing their businesses in fear of the looters and vandals who had randomly pelted shops with stones.
It is alleged that some owners were so scared that they even came to their shops at night and removed all stock.
Concerned street vendors also stayed away from the town.
Also affected were scores of shoppers, mostly from villages in and around Giyani, who were forced to go home empty-handed as they could not shop.
Makhubela said police would continue to monitor the situation to make sure that peace and stability were restored.
Local Indian and foreign shop owners have accused the protesters of targeting their shops even though they had nothing to do with the crime committed.
Mohammed Osman, spokesman for the Indian Business Forum, said while they understood the community’s anger, they were unfairly targeted simply because the suspects were also Indians.
“Now we are painted with the same brush with those who committed the crime,” Osman said.
“Those who were arrested must pay for their crimes. We don’t support them because we are living in a country where there is the rule of law, and it must be respected. No one is allowed to kill a person. They should have called the police.”
Osman said they would continue to engage with community leaders, police, church leaders, and other stakeholders to pave the way for business to re-open.
“We understand the anger, and the pain of losing someone cannot be measured or priced, but the problem is that everyone has become a target, because of the doing of the few.”
Worryingly, Osman added, the shops that were burnt down had nothing to do with the arrested suspects.