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Call For Cool Heads On Somali Issue

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Concerns: Somali Mohammed Mahat Hussan, who lives in Bellville, addresses police commissioner Mzwandile Petros. Photo:   Rogan Ward, Cape Argus

Cape Town, SA, September 06, 2006 – Robbery and business rivalry were the reasons behind the spate of killings that has afflicted the Somali community in Cape Town rather than "organized crime" aimed at the community, said provincial police commissioner, Mzwandile Petros.

He was speaking in an open meeting on Tuesday between representatives of the Somali community in the city, police, government officials and representatives of the Cape Town Refugee Centre and the Human Rights Commission.

Petros ruled out suggestions that the attacks on Somalis were the actions of organized criminals, saying investigations had shown that the motive for the killings was robbery.

There had been only two incidents where Somalis had been killed without being robbed.

"Police are still investigating this to establish the motive for the two killings. I want to dispel this belief that it's organized crime. Our investigation is not showing this. I think it is purely business-related - there seems to be big competition, especially in Masiphumelele.

"The issue of Masiphumelele is the first of its kind - Somalis had been living happily with communities."

At least 66 incidents involving Somalis as victims of crime had been reported this year and most had been armed robberies, Petros said.

He assured the Somalis that the murder cases were treated as priority crimes irrespective of race or nationality, and were dealt with in the same manner as cases involving South Africans. Three arrests had been made so far in connection with the Somali killings.

It also emerged at the meeting that there had been contradictory or unsubstantiated claims about the number of Somalis killed in the Western Cape. Police said nine had been killed this year.

'We want to apologize for the misrepresentation in the media'

Recent reported claims suggested the figure was much higher, but the Somali group at Tuesday's meeting agreed that media reports of 28 murders were a result of "exaggeration and propaganda" spread by other frustrated Somalis who didn't have much knowledge about the murders.

Mohammed Mahat Hussan, secretary of the community grouping, said the figure of 28 was the number of Somalis killed countrywide.

"We want to apologize for the misrepresentation in the media. The media has been speaking to people who were misinformed. We've seen in the media reports things that we don't even know about."

He added: "All we want as Somalis is to live side by side with communities and not cause a commotion. We need to find a solution to this problem."

Somalis said, nevertheless, one of the problems they faced was the slow response from police when crimes occurred and also that they wanted the police to protect them.

Petros committed himself at the meeting to getting involved in initiatives by community organizations aimed at integrating Somalis into local communities.

He said he had also instructed police stations to assist Somalis by recording their details - their names and the addresses of their businesses - to make it easier to attend to them should there be an attack or a robbery.

Petros also urged local businessmen and traders to learn business skills from the Somalis and to work together instead of fighting one another.

It emerged at the meeting that police were looking for a Somali man who had allegedly killed a South African in a fight in Delft at the weekend.

Petros urged the Somali community to bring the suspect to the police as he hadn't handed himself over.

It was agreed at Tuesday's meeting to hold a follow-up discussion to monitor the progress of the integration of the Somali community into local society.

Source: Cape Argus

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