Foreigners could be saved by WhatsApp

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DURBAN – “Wednesday Zulu people are coming to town walking from the market with a mission to kill every foreigner along roads. Please pass this warning to all your contacts so they could be on the alert!” read a WhatsApp alert warning on an alleged threat against foreigners in Durban, SA.

Foreigners told religious leaders of the Diakonia Council of Churches on Monday that since last week they had been receiving warnings through social networks telling them to be on the alert from possible attacks that could take place in Durban from yesterday.

“This warning has been circulating in cellphones of foreigners. Personally I don’t know who the source of the warning is,” Daniel Dunia, the spokesman for refugees at the camp that has been established in Isipingo Beach, south of Durban, said.

A Zimbabwean living in the central business district said his neighbours, who were South Africans, had been telling him that from Wednesday (yesterday), “we would be attacking all foreigners because the king said all of them must leave our country. One even told me ‘That flat is going to be mine’.”

Anglican Church Bishop Rubin Phillip and Methodist Church Bishop Mike Vorster led the fact-finding mission to the camp that has become a safe haven for victims of xenophobic attacks in Isipingo, Malukazi and Umlazi.

Vorster said even though the alert could be just a rumour it should not be dismissed outright.

There were differing reports as to what sparked the violence that started on March 30.

City officials told the clergymen that disturbances started after a labour protest by South Africans who turned their anger on foreigners.

But locals blamed Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini, saying the attackers said he had given an order that foreigners should be deported.

Municipal official Bheki Mngwengwe, assigned to look after the Isipingo camp, said the threat would be reported to the National Intelligence Agency for investigation.

“They (the agency) were here just now. As soon as they come back we will inform them about this.”

Before the violence in Durban erupted, the king told a moral regeneration gathering in Pongola last month that foreigners were helping break culture down, that some were responsible for crime and therefore illegal foreigners should leave the country.

Vorster said the Diakonia Council of Churches was seeking a meeting with the king to understand what his statement meant.

“I would like to ask him to clarify what he said. We would like to meet the king, but certainly there is a protocol that would need to be followed. We would like to explore that and see if we cannot have an audience with the king to have a better understanding in terms of what he did say,” he said.

Phillip said leaders should speak responsibly about foreigners.

“They (leaders) have to watch their words because if the leader says anything against or about foreign nations, that would be negative, then the people might use that to continue to attack foreign nationals.”

He said whether the leader was a politician, church leader or king, they should choose their words carefully. – IOL