Foreigners threatened with violence


By NEO MADITLA

There were a spate of xenophobic threats and attempted attacks in Khayelitsha last week following Bafana Bafana's exit from the World Cup, say worried staff of projects operating in the area.

Gavin Silber, a co-ordinator at the Social Justice Coalition branch in Khayelitsha, said they had received reports last week, mainly from the Somalian community, who had been warned of violence if they did not leave South Africa after the World Cup.

The Social Justice Coalition was established by individuals and NGOs around Cape Town in response to the xenophobia crisis that hit South Africa in May 2008.

"We are very concerned that it could spiral into the kind of violence that we experienced two years ago. That can't happen again and we would like the city and province to be prepared."

Silber said they had received affidavits from residents as well as Somali shopkeepers who had been threatened with violence or faced attempted attacks after the Bafana first-round exit.

"There have been threats of attacks on shop owners in the past few months, but they seem to have escalated since the start of the World Cup," said Silber.

But some residents are protective of the shopkeepers.

Siad Ali Arte, a Somalian shopkeeper in Makhaza, Khayelitsha, said a group of 10 men tried to attack his shop last week, but they were stopped by police and other residents.

"They said that after the World Cup they would rob Somalian shops and take everything. I am afraid because if I leave this place I don't know where to go."

He said the men blew vuvuzelas in front of his store and told him to leave after the World Cup. A customer warned him to close the security gates.

"Other community members stood in front of my store until it was time to close. Without the community we would have been attacked," said Arte.

Nomathemba Mdudu said she saw a group of eight teenagers throwing stones at her foreign neighbour's house and trying to break into a foreign-owned shop using a crowbar, and called the police.

Silber said the police did not arrest the teenagers.

"They released them back into the community and asked community leaders to find a suitable punishment, which was to clear rubbish in front of the shop."

Silber said the response from the police, city and provincial government had been poor during the last spate of attacks two years ago and they needed to be better prepared.

"Some of the causes of the xenophobic violence in 2008 included desperation, frustration, poverty and poor service delivery. Instead of confronting the government, the communities attacked the most vulnerable people in their community - foreigners."

He said most issues they had been angry about had still not been resolved in Khayelitsha. The toilet protests in Makhaza highlighted this.

Christina Henda, director of the Cape Town Refugee Centre in Wynberg, said women had volunteered to patrol the streets of Khayelitsha after the 2008 attacks.

"They said you people are not going to touch our Noor (the Somalian shopkeepers)."

Henda said that after the attacks some of the people who had been responsible for the violence in the area went to the shop as customers, but the women chased them away and told them to shop elsewhere.

"They were teaching them a lesson that if they don't protect the Somalians, they're the ones who will suffer in future."

Henda said research done after the 2008 attacks showed some of the causes of the violence included lawlessness, poverty and opportunism.

Police spokesman Colonel Billy Jones said they had not received any reports of acts of xenophobia, nor had Richard Bosman, executive director for Safety and Security at the city.



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