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Durban's foreign street vendors ’warned’ not to return to work face financial plight

A file photo of the violent attacks that took place in Durban in March.

A file photo of the violent attacks that took place in Durban in March.

Published Apr 13, 2021

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Durban - Six weeks after xenophobic attacks in the Durban CBD, hundreds of foreigners say they are no closer to finding a solution to their financial plight.

The foreign nationals, who worked as street vendors and barbers in the CBD, said they were warned and told not to return to their work.

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It has been alleged that the attacks were carried out by members of the Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA), however, the provincial body has denied any involvement of its members.

The foreigners and human rights bodies have appealed for the eThekwini Municipality to intervene in the matter.

This week the municipality said numerous ongoing meetings were convened with the local traders’ leadership and foreign national representatives, MKMVA members, Metro Police and SAPS to discuss ways of curbing the attacks.

Mwayuma Mubayua, a young street trader from the Workshop flea market, said she wanted answers from the city.

She said she had traded there for years.

“It is my only form of income, yet we can't as legal street traders go there because we are being chased or threatened. It’s scary that all our spots are taken and if we try to go back they will take our goods away like before and blow a whistle for the mob to attack us. What are we to do?” Mubayua asked.

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Gaby Bikombo, founding member of Siyagunda Street Barber’s Association (SSBA), told The Mercury the situation was still very concerning and he hoped last week’s church intervention together with city’s plans would yield results.

“The violence has slowed down, but foreign traders are still not allowed back to their trading spots since the attacks months ago because they are still fearful,” he said.

“We have demanded a metro police presence at the flea market but that has not yet materialised. It is risky for any foreign trader to try and trade without the police (presence). Those who did that were taking a huge risk.”

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EThekwini municipality spokesperson, Msawakhe Mayisela said a number of actions had been suggested for the Business Support Unit and enforcement agencies which the city was implementing, including:

– Communication with trader leadership (local and foreign traders).

– Ongoing joint enforcement plan which involves both SAPS and metro police.

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– Monitoring of hot spot areas by enforcement teams/ visibility of police within the city.

– Identify all sites which legal traders have been removed forcefully and ensure that they resume trading in their rightful stands; these areas are monitored by enforcement agencies on a daily basis.

He said affected traders were also encouraged to open cases and submit the case number and statements to police.

He also said that the municipality was finalising preparations to host a Social Cohesion Summit.

Last week, church leaders held a silent vigil at Durban CBD’s Medwood Gardens in solidarity with the foreign national community which had been targeted in violent attacks since the beginning of this year.

The event was organised by the KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council (KZNCC).

Bishop BM Buthelezi said the church leaders affirmed that all people, regardless of nationality or country of birth or ethnic origin, were children of God, created in his image and likeness and therefore having the same innate dignity, value and worth.

“Fear and prejudice or hatred for people of differing origins (xenophobia) is unbiblical and directly opposed to the teaching of Christ that we must respect, accept and love one another,” he said.

Cardinal Wilfrid Napier said he was encouraged by the diverse turnout of local and foreign nationals.

Thandoyise Chiliza, a representative of the MKMVA’s provincial executive committee (PEC) said in the past many days were spent living in exile in foreign countries.

“We had good support of those countries for many years because we did not know at what point we would come back to South Africa.”

The Mercury

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