CAPE TOWN - Mitchells Plain’s Pakistani community is in shock after five of their countrymen were shot dead and one was seriously wounded in an attack on a home bakery in Rocklands.

South African police are investigating a case of murder and robbery, but members of the Pakistani community say Tuesday night’s attack was motivated by business rivalry.

Shortly before 10 on Tuesday night two men walked into a house in Uranus Street, Rocklands, which was being used as a bakery, and demanded access to a safe. They opened fire on the six occupants. Four died at the scene and a fifth in hospital, said police liaison officer Colonel Thembinkosi Kinana.

Kinana said the gunmen stole a safe and fled.

Soon after the attack, a 28-year-old man was arrested and a firearm and a safe were recovered. The man will appear in the Mitchells Plain Magistrate’s Court soon, Kinana said. He said the motive for the attack was unknown.

Ifthikar Butt, secretary general of the Pakistan Community Welfare Association in Cape Town, said it was widely believed the attack was linked to business rivalries. “There are lots of things behind this, but I cannot tell you all of it right now,” he said. “I have been there all night. Earlier, police at the scene told me they had arrested two men and a woman, but I don’t know if that is correct.

“The business owner, who is in Pakistan at the moment, has been distributing bread in the area for 16 years and we know there was a lot of jealousy from certain local businesspeople.

“About 10 days ago, one of these guys was shot and now he is in hospital again. These people have been threatened before.

“But I want to highlight the loss of innocent lives. They walked into a house and shot people inside the house, innocent people. That is really not good.”

Butt said he believed the owner of the business would return to Cape Town soon to help deal with the situation.

The men were employed by Eastern Bread distributors, a company owned by Abid Hussain, a Pakistani who’s lived in Mitchells Plain for about 18 years.  Hussain’s wife, Rukshana Hussain, was present at the time of the shooting. On Wednesday morning she was comforting her 12-year-old granddaughter, who had hit her head as she tried to run away from the gunfire.

“A man came into the lounge where we were watching TV. His face was covered, but he was tall and skinny. He asked (Hussain’s brother) Baqar to show him to the safe. Then he said ‘what is your name,’ and Baqar answered him. Those are the only words that were exchanged; the man raised his gun and shot Baqar twice. He turned, stopped, and then shot him a third time,” a tearful Hussain told the Cape Argus.  A second gunman shot and killed two other men, and injured another two in an adjacent room.

A neighbour had been alerted by the gunfire and came outside armed with a handgun. As he ran into the street he passed a sixth man who was slumped in the driveway with a bullet wound to his head. The attackers shot at him as they fled.

Rana Ahmed, Hussain’s business partner, believed the attack was a targeted hit, and not a robbery. “Why else would they ask Baqar for his name before killing him? They were hired to do what they did, and the masterminds need to be caught,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ahmed quarrelled with police officers about the fact that the bodies lay uncovered for more than eight hours as forensic investigators combed the scene. “For a Muslim, this is very degrading,” he said.  He was battling to get access to the house, to retrieve documents needed to begin the process of repatriating the deceased’s bodies back to Pakistan, he said.