Waleed Teriq talking politics and mobile technology with customers at his new home and business, Celltronic Express.

Waleed Teriq talking politics and mobile technology with customers at his new home and business, Celltronic Express.  Photo: Percy Matshoba

From political violence to crime 

SMALL Pakistani immigrant communities are finding refuge in Braamfontein’s inner city through the establishment of business chains to escape the politically hostile environment back home.

After one businessman nearly had his shop bombed, he ended up here.

‘’We do have businesses in Pakistan but the problem in our country is war and it’s too much,” said Pakistani immigrant and business owner Waleed Teriq, who reveals that his decision to move to South Africa was motivated by the political turmoil in his country.

The political unrest was brought by the ideological conflict of the Islamic faction known as the Taliban.  It had taken control of Afghanistan in 1997 and imposed extreme Islamist law, which found neighbouring country Pakistan in the ongoing crossfire of the conflict.

Crime – the lesser devil 

According to Teriq, members of the Taliban sent letters to his store in Pakistan which prohibited him from downloading videos and songs for his customers. They threatened to bomb his shop if he did not adhere to the instructions.

However, while Teriq moved from his country to South Africa to escape the consistent danger to his life, he still falls victim to the high incidences of crime in South Africa.

[pullquote]“We had a robbery, two times in 2010 and six people came with the guns and laid me down, taking 60 cellphones” said Teriq who reflects on the attack as his first experience of South African criminal activity.[/pullquote]

Similarly, a shop attendant from Bangladesh, Rohan Islam experienced a similar incident when his phone and R500 was stolen from him whilst getting off a taxi at the Bree street taxi rank.

“South Africa also have [sic] crime, not too bad, but there is a mix,” said Islam.

Communities at war 

Islam reflects on his decision to move from Bangladesh to South Africa as an escape from the violent attacks he endured under the Bangladesh Nationalist Party’s (BNP) regime. This saw him spend 21 days in hospital.

Teriq describes the relationship between the South African Police Services (SAPS) and the immigrant communities as “helpful”, although he mentions the need for the police force to be unduly incentivised is “too much”.

The political conflict in the migrant communities from different countries plays out in their business operations. This is because of the   complicated relationship between the Pakistani and the Bangladeshi. “There is a community, but we are not friends,’’ said Islam.

“It is too difficult to live in our country right now,”   says Teriq, talking about Pakistan, who describes Braamfontein as better than any other area in Johannesburg.