Xenophobic attacks erupt in SA after king’s speech

DURBAN – About 120 foreign nationals who were attacked in Isipingo spent Monday night at the local police station.

According to a police source in the area, the conflict erupted after a group of men pelted the foreigners with stones, accusing them of destroying local businesses.

“The group of foreigners also run businesses in the area and when they were attacked by locals, they fought back pelting their attackers with stones. Because the area is next to a taxi rank, about five taxis were hit by the bricks. That made the situation worse,” said the source.

Isipingo police station commander, Colonel Themba Shelembe, said it was a sorry sight seeing children and their parents sleeping in the open on the police station grounds.

“We have people from Congo, Burundi, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Malawi gathered at the station as we speak,” he said this morning.

“Yesterday at about 11pm the Congolese Embassy called me, saying that they were coming to take their people to a safer place, but when I relayed the news to the Congolese, they wanted none of it,” Shelembe said.

He said the Congolese said if help was on the way, then they should not be separated from the rest of the refugees.

“Even women shouted that they would not be separated from their men. The sad part is that some of these people have small children.

“We need an urgent solution to this because we don’t have accommodation for these people.”

King Goodwill Zwelithini’s reported comments that foreigners must leave has been blamed for the fresh wave of xenophobic attacks, this time in Isipingo and uMlazi. Cars, minibus taxis, a house and foreign-owned businesses were stoned as hordes of people allegedly chased them out of their businesses saying, the “king has spoken”.

The foreigners have hit back at the king and called for him to chase his Swazi wife, Queen Zola Mafu, out of the country first.

They blamed the government for not denouncing his comments, saying the attacks had left their shops exposed, with thousands of rand worth of stock looted as a result on Monday.

The Royal House has since denied that the king made the comments, claiming that he was quoted out of context. The South African Human Rights Commission is investigating a complaint and has asked for an audio recording of his speech.

Speaking at the Isipingo police station on Monday, foreigners called for the government to intervene.

Daniel Dunia, a businessman from the DRC, who claimed he was in the country legally, said the government was to blame because nobody had called the king to order.

“The South African government must change the constitution if they want us to go away; we can find a different country to seek asylum,” he said.

“The government, the president never said anything to call the king to order, so they are responsible for this, too.”

Dunia said at least three people had been taken to hospital with injuries.

“The king is the one who is responsible for this xenophobic attack,” Dunia said.

“We are not safe at all; at home we are not safe and even at the police station we are not safe, because they are beating us here, even the police.

“A few months ago, the relationship was very good… we don’t have any problems with (South Africans).

“To me he (the king) is not a leader because we have never found a leader who can say foreigners must go. He has a foreign woman, he must chase his wife away first and then we can go.”

Dunia slammed police and claimed they did nothing to quell the attacks and instead, two foreigners who were carrying bush knives were arrested by police.

“The police come and do nothing; they just stand there. Then they (attackers) start taking stones and beating foreigners with the stones and sticks, and the police are standing there, and at the end of the day, we ask them (the police) what can we do.

“So, they escort us to the police station.

“We reach here and even the police are beating our brothers here at the police station in Isipingo,” he said.

Another foreigner, Domingo Felekeni, said he fled from his barber shop to the police station when he got a phone call that foreign businesses were under attack.

Police spokesman, Major Thulani Zwane, said police were aware of incidents in uMlazi and Isipingo but that no cases had been opened.

“We urge the victims to come forward and report the matter so that we can commence with the investigation.”

Community activist, Des-mond D’Sa, described the attacks as “sad”. “This must stem from the king’s statement; it’s really sad,” he said.

A house owned by a South African and rented by a group of foreigners was stoned. They live there and use it as a scrapyard by day.

The property owner, who did not want to be named, said he was disappointed that the house had been badly damaged, adding that the attacks were not necessary.

“Many cars that belong to people were being fixed here and are badly ruined now because of this,” he said.

“I’m still shocked at what happened and I am afraid for them because the people hit the taxis with the stones and they will be blamed for this.”  – Daily News

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