Members of the Bangladeshi community peacefully took to the streets on Wednesday May 30 after their shops and businesses had been looted during land invasion protests last week (“Violence erupts from invasion”, Plainsman, May 30).
Sulyman Stellenboom, an activist from Tafelsig, said: “The reason we gathered at the Lentegeur police station was for peace. We arranged a meeting with Lentegeur SAPS, Brigadier Mmagauta Letsoalo who travelled from Parliament to be at the meeting. Dozens of Bangladeshi community members from over the Western Cape gathered there because they are sick and tired of their businesses being affected through violence.
“They are trying to show the community, they’re not the bad guys. They want to bring peace to the community and work together. Therefore a call to break their fast together with the community was important to them.”
Woodlands resident Eva Theunissen added: “They were shocked at being targeted once again.
“They were victims of the looting. Some of them are in Kensington waiting for their buildings to be rebuilt and furnished for business again.
“When the looting happened last week, they had to run to the landlord’s house.
“They watched their businesses being destroyed in front of their eyes as there was nothing they could do to save it,” she said.
“Some of them managed to get some of their goods out of their shops. It was a sad day for all of them.”
Gabieba Rademeyer, also from Woodlands, said: “I would just like something to be done in our area, with everything that has been going on. The police only came out after everything was done.
“They vandalised the store and robbed them of their jobs.”
Lentegeur Community Police Forum (CPF) chairperson, Byron De Villiers, said he had seen a post on Facebook about the protest at Lentegeur police station and went to see what it was all about.
There he found dozens of Bangladeshi men, from across the province, standing with posters calling for justice.
“When the men met with the police and the CPF, they lamented that whenever there was a protest or strike, their shops were the first to be looted.”
Mr De Villiers said the police gave an undertaking that they would look at the concerns as a provincial matter and not just a Lentegeur police station matter.
He said the CPF understood the men’s concerns and that they were an important partner in the fight against crime because they allowed residents to buy goods on credit and contributed to the economy.
Salauddin Khan, owner of Mitchell’s Superette, which was among the shops which were looted, said: “The five owners whose shops were looted went down to the police station and spoke to provincial police as well as Lentegeur SAPS.”
He added that the Bangladeshi community were promised, last week, that they would receive a call from police as to what could be done to help them in light of what they had lost in the looting incidents.
“It looks like it is xenophobic, I can’t say if it’s not. People who are fighting for land (have) become violent.
“Everybody must stand up and stop the violence and help each other. We want to help each other,” said Mr Khan.
Despite numerous calls and emails, police did not respond to the Plainsman’s request for comment by the time this edition went to print.