Graeme Hosken and Amukelani Chauke
WITH the world's eyes focused on the Marikana commission of inquiry, scant attention has been paid to the violence spilling into the surrounding informal settlements.
For days Chinese, Somali and other foreign business owners have been defending their shops as heavily armed gangs roam the streets of Rustenburg's settlements, torch cars and loot and burn shops.
Fearing a repeat of the deadly xenophobia that swept the country in 2008, police are preparing to implement contingency plans to contain the violence in the North West.
The implementation – thought to involve the army – is based on the concerns of both police and associations of foreign nationals that the violence is taking an even more sinister turn.
In three days, five foreign- owned shops and 10 cars have been destroyed.
Those behind the violence – thought to include striking Anglo Platinum miners – are venting their anger at the mines' alleged favouring of foreigners over South Africans for employment.
The gangs have turned many of the settlements and mine hostels into no-go zones, barricading roads with rocks and engaging in running street battles with police.
In Boitekong, miners armed with pangas and petrol bombs looted and set alight two shops belonging to Portuguese and Chinese businessmen.
Near Anglo Platinum's Khomanani shaft and the Jabula hostel, Portuguese businessman Nelio Farinha said he had lost everything when his butchery and grocery were torched.
"It is not only people from the mine. Some are from the community. I have never done anything wrong to anyone. I sponsor three soccer teams around Rustenburg," Farinha said.
Another Portuguese businessman, Alvaro Gomes, said his bottlestore and grocery shop were looted and damaged. His shop was near a Chinese-owned business razed to the ground.
North West police spokesman Brigadier Thulani Ngubane said two people had been arrested in connection with the attacks on shops. The arrests were made on Tuesday night after a group of 500 people barricaded streets near the Thembela hostel.
"They were among a group of people who stoned police trying to quell the violence.
"Information we have is that miners are angry with mine management, whom they accuse of employing foreigners instead of South Africans," Ngubane said.
"Because of this they have been attacking foreign-owned shops."
National police spokesman Captain Dennis Adriao said there were contingency plans in place and the situation was being monitored closely.