XENOPHOBIA RISING

Fearful foreign nationals hide indoors after two looters shot dead during xenophobic attacks in Durban

By Lelethu Tonisi 27 March 2019

Archive photo: Refugees wait to be relocated by the police to a temporary shelter after camping for five days by a major road in Krugersdorp, west of Johannesburg, July 28, 2008. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko (SOUTH AFRICA)

Xenophobic attacks flared up in the Springfield, Kenville area in Durban on Monday 25 March, when a mob of protesters burst into the homes of foreign nationals, moving door to door and seizing belongings, from beds and TV sets to pots and baskets, before targeting foreign-operated shops. The violence left several people injured and at least two people dead. And while police patrols have brought calm to the area, foreign nationals are still too afraid to venture outside.

Temba Sibanda is holed up in his home in Benwood Road, Sydenham in Durban, too afraid to go outside to use the bathroom, let alone go to work. The Zimbabwean national, who has been in the country for four years, escaped falling victim to a marauding mob in the early hours of Monday by hiding away. More than 24 hours later Sibanda still would not set foot outside, fearful of being caught and injured by the mob.

They knocked on my door and I didn’t answer. I can’t even go out to pee, I’m using a bucket,” he says, speaking softly over the phone, careful not to make any detectable noise fearing it may attract the mob.

He says the about 100-strong mob entered their rooms, chased people out and grabbed their goods. At about 6am on Monday the mob moved to the shops, which were about to open.

I heard gunshots and went out to look. Then I saw a Somali guy shooting with a gun upwards to scare the Zulu men,” he said.

Agatha Marutsi, a domestic worker from Zimbabwe, said her brother and sister-in-law were attacked on Monday when their home was surrounded and broken into. She said the protesters took all their belongings including beds, clothes, money and cellphones, leaving them with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

They were saying ‘we want cash and money, you are taking our jobs,’ ” she said. She was terrified and alerted the police, who arrived hours later.

Marutsi says people were attacked with sticks and metal rods. She says they were advised by the police to temporarily evacuate the area and move to nearby relatives or friends.

Marutsi’s employer Andrea Watson said that prior to the attacks a warning had been posted on Facebook about a service delivery protest, but she later learnt of alleged disputes between local residents and foreign nationals over jobs.

A lot of what is happening is also an excuse for criminal looting,” Watson said.

In a recording purportedly taken during Monday’s violence an unidentified South African man is heard intimidating a foreign national, telling him that they (foreigners) should leave South Africa if they did not have a permit, and that South Africans were sick of foreigners destroying their jobs with their cheap labour.

Tariq Sheik, a business owner in the Sea Cow Lake area, says he was told by his employees that a South African had allegedly been shot by a foreign national between 8pm and 9pm on Monday. He believes this is what may have inflamed the protest. Police have confirmed that three people had been shot during the violence.

The roads were blocked I couldn’t even get to work. They were burning tyres and dustbins and had bottles and sticks barricading the road,” Sheik said.

Police spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Thulani Zwane said the protest began on Sunday with a group of about a 100 people, but says he is uncertain about what may have triggered it.

Three people had been shot by shop owners and two died, he said.

They were breaking into shops and looting. We have arrested two suspects for public violence. Investigations for murder and attempted murder are still continuing,” Zwane said.

He said the situation has “cooled down” and that officers have been deployed to patrol the affected areas.

We have officers stationed in Kenville, Inanda Road, Benwood Road and Sea Cow Lake,” Zwane said.

Those arrested were expected to appear in court on Tuesday. DM

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