Zimbabweans under siege in South Africa


DURBAN – Xenophobic attacks in South Africa took an ominous turn yesterday with more groups of threatened foreigners arriving at police stations seeking protection.

Yesterday morning there was a growing crowd of Mozambicans and Zimbabweans at the Sydenham Police Station after they were chased by locals from their homes in the New Germany Road informal settlement.

On Monday night a different group gathered at Greenwood Park Police Station – after being chased from their homes.

On Monday church leaders visited a camp in Isipingo after foreigners were hounded out of that area as well as uMlazi.

Many of the affected people are families who have been living in Durban for several years.

At Sydenham Police Station on Tuesday, Joseph Msimango (36) of Zimbabwe, said the New Germany Road informal settlement residents’ committee had taken a roll call on Monday of all foreign nationals.

“They took down our names and checked our papers. They said they wanted to check that we were all here legally. We had no problem, because they talked to us properly.”

Hours later, the foreign nationals were ambushed in their homes and beaten, many escaping with only the clothes they were wearing.

Another man who asked not to be named said: “We have been living with them as brothers for 15 years. All of a sudden they herd us out like cows.”

Most of the group work as artisans. Besides their passports and other documents, they are desperate to go back for their tools.

“We just want to take our things, make some money and go home before we are killed,” another said.

Satish Dhupelia, of the Sydenham Community Police Forum, said they were trying to get the municipality to help because the police alone cannot handle all the needs of stranded people.

On Sunday, 28 Mozambicans fled from a Sea Cow Lake shack settlement after a mob of 15 balaclava-clad men allegedly attacked them.
They are now living in one of the prefabricated offices at the Greenwood Park Police Station.

One of the victims, David Santo, said the mob arrived on Saturday night. They stoned the shacks of the foreigners and looted homes.

Several men were beaten with sticks, rocks and bottles, Santo said.

“They broke whatever they could in our shacks, including our fridges and televisions.

“They threatened to kill (us) on Sunday if they found us still staying there. Some of the residents fled to the central business district. The police took the rest of us to the police station,” he said.

“We want to go back to our homeland.”

Santo said the “landlord” of the rented shacks had tried to help them, but the mob pushed him aside, saying they did not want foreigners in the country. Another victim, who identified herself as Linda, said they rented the shacks for R350 a month.

Some Mozambicans have been living in the settlement for 10 years, working as tradesmen, shop assistants and domestic workers.

The police provided them with food for the night.

Police spokesman Major Thulani Zwane confirmed on Tuesday morning that people had come to the Greenwood Park Police Station claiming they were victims of a xenophobic attack. He said the police were interviewing and taking down statements.