EC Chinese business owners under siege

By Malibongwe Dayimani

Chinese businesses owners in the Eastern Cape say they are being targeted by a syndicate that deals in house robberies and hijackings.

Chinese businesses owners in the Eastern Cape say they are being targeted by a syndicate that deals in house robberies and hijackings Picture: NICOLETTE SCROOBY

Seventeen criminal cases have been opened with the police in East London alone by members of the Eastern Cape Shanghai Industrial and Commercial Liaison Association since January.

Millions of rands in cash, foreign currency, jewellery, cars and household goods have been taken from their homes in the space of three months, said the association’s vice-president Qin Bing Qing.

Most of the robberies have been in Gonubie, Beacon Bay, Selborne, Berea and Vincent.

While the Eastern Cape police confirmed the incidents, they dismissed claims that it was the work of a syndicate.

In the most recent incident five heavily armed assailants robbed a businessman at his home in Selborne, East London, on Friday.

Police spokesman Captain Mluleki Mbi said: “The complainant alleges he was accosted by five armed men as he was driving into his premises. They forced him into the house where the rest of the family were ordered to lie down and they were robbed of cash, foreign currency, a laptop, a Macbook, jewellery and a cellphone. The robbers fled the scene in the complainant’s vehicle.”

Cambridge police have launched a manhunt, but they have yet to make any arrests in this or any of the cases they are working on.

Mbi confirmed that seven house robberies relating to Chinese nationals were being investigated by the Cambridge police in Selborne and Berea.

Mbi said the first East London robbery took place in Selborne on March 16.

Bing Qing said his countrymen in other parts of the province – including King William’s Town, Butterworth, Idutywa and Mthatha – were also battling similar attacks.

“In the former Transkei region, it is mostly hijacking of our trucks, so much so that our guys in northern Transkei have opted to stock up in KwaZulu-Natal because of the attacks on the route to East London.”

More than 400 Chinese entrepreneurs operate in BCM in the retail, manufacturing, textile, timber and food industries and they employ thousands of locals.

Bing Qing said in one incident one of their members had lost millions of rands in cash in a robbery at his Beacon Bay home.

Asked why the businessman kept that much cash at home, Bing Qing said: “Bank charges are ridiculously high in this country, so some of us opt to keep our money at home.”

He added: “I had a meeting with the police in Cambridge who told me these are not just random robberies – they are well orchestrated by people who raise money to rob us.”

Bing Qing said it was easy to spot and profile Chinese businessmen.

“There are two China Towns in East London and a few of our members have firms in Fort Jackson, so the criminals profile us and follow us to our houses.”

BCM spokesman Samkelo Ngwenya said a meeting between mayor Xola Pakati, international relations and development cooperation manager for BCM Darby Gounden and Bing Qing will take place next week. Ngwenya said the city hopes to rope in metro police to assist the SAPS.

The other cases are being investigated by the Fleet Street police. East London police spokeswoman Warrant Officer Hazel Mqala could not be reached for comment. — malibongwed@dispatch.co.za

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