- Most businessmen in South Africa kept shops closed during the unrest.
- Taking advantage of anger over Zuma's imprisonment, criminals loot and destroy shops.
- More than 1 lakh Bangladeshis live in South Africa.
- Most are self-employed.
- No Bangladeshi was reported injured or killed in the unrest.
Thousands of Bangladeshi migrants in South Africa have been living in fear for the last several days in the wake of political riots and looting in the country.
Bangladeshis, mostly in the grocery business there, have kept their shops closed for the last few days. A number of these businesses have become victims of looting in some places, especially in Durban state.
The unrest started after former South African President Jacob Zuma handed himself over to police on 7 July to start a 15-month prison sentence for contempt of court, reported Reuters on Wednesday.
Days of riots and looting in South Africa have left more than 70 people dead, hurt thousands of businesses and damaged major infrastructure in some of the worst civil unrest since the end of white minority rule in 1994.
"I have kept my shop closed for the last five days and I am terrified. Most of the shops are closed here, while some have remained open with police protection," Shah Arman, a Bangladeshi migrant in Durban told TBS over the phone on Thursday.
"One of my neighbouring Bangladeshi shops was looted a few days ago. Not only Bangladeshis, but all foreign migrants here are very frightened now," he added.
Md Rasel, another Bangladeshi migrant in Johannesburg city, said he kept his shop closed for five days before opening it on Thursday under police protection.
According to unofficial estimates, around three lakh Bangladeshis work in different African countries. Of them, more than one lakh are in South Africa, where most Bangladeshis are self-employed.
Xenophobic robbery and looting directed at shops of migrant is not uncommon in the country. Over the years, news of Bangladeshis killed in South Africa has surfaced fairly routinely in mainstream media.
Omar Faruk, a Bangladeshi businessman in Cape Town, told TBS over the phone, "Bangladeshis are living more or less in almost all the South African states. Durban and KwaZulu-Natal accommodate most Bangladeshi migrants where the highest unrest is appearing now."
Md Tarikul lslam, director general (Africa wing) of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told TBS, "We are getting regular reports from our South African mission. There has been some looting. However, no Bangladeshi is reported injured or killed."
"We have been closely observing the current situation in South Africa. Bangladeshis were not specifically targeted in the ongoing riots and looting and our embassy is continuously in touch with local law enforcement agencies," he added.
Md Tarikul lslam said the situation has been improving gradually, most recently in the last couple of days.
Businesses wrecked by unrest
Triggered by the jailing of ex-president Jacob Zuma, the unrest has widened into an outpouring of anger over poverty and inequality, reports Reuters.
Police said some criminal elements of society have also been stealing and vandalising, taking advantage of public anger about Zuma's imprisonment.
Many of South Africa's small, medium-sized and micro enterprises (SMME) are not insured, compounding problems of recovery from damages incurred in the unrest.
"We run small businesses. Nobody wants to insure us here in Jules (street). It's a high risk area. When you call insurance (companies) they say no, this is a high risk area," Johannesburg car dealership owner Okey Uchendu said of his business that employed 16 people.
A survey done by the Small Business Institute (SBI) revealed last year that as many as 55,000 small to medium and micro enterprises may not make it through the Covid-19 pandemic. With this latest unrest, the number is expected to rise, SBI Chief Executive John Dludlu told Reuters.
More than 200 malls have been looted or destroyed and over 600 stores burnt or damaged so far, the South African Property Owners Association said on Wednesday.
The liquor industry said more than 200 liquor shops have been looted in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng provinces.
Bigger businesses like clothing retailer Mr Price (MRPJ.J) were forced to temporarily shut hundreds of stores after being entirely looted, with some malls also shutting their doors.