Durban - Authorities are scrambling to find a suitable place to house foreigners displaced after violence erupted in Isipingo this week.
About 170 people including children are affected, but the numbers swelled to about 250 on Wednesday night.
Many of them have been sleeping in the open at the Isipingo police station premises since Monday, fearing for their lives after violent attacks on foreigners in the area.
They were to have been temporarily moved to a soccer field in Merebank, but that plan did not work out and they had to spend their third night in the open at the police station.
The decision to move them was announced on Wednesday by mayor James Nxumalo after two days of consultation with stakeholders, including Community Safety MEC Willies Mchunu, uMlazi and Isipingo councillors and representatives of the group.
Earlier in the day, Nxumalo said buses would be arranged to fetch them after 4pm.
However on Wednesday night the facilities were not ready and this was delayed to Thursday.
Deputy city manager for community and emergency services, Musa Gumede, who met representatives of the affected group on Wednesday night, said later: “There have been talks with stakeholders in the taxi industry, the community and shop owners. Once we believe there is an area conducive for the refugees to live in we will inform them.
“Some of the businesses owned by foreigners are open in the Isipingo area. Tensions have eased.”
Gumede said the city had a four-pronged approach to deal with the displaced foreigners:
* The completion of the verification process being done by the Department of Home Affairs.
* Looking for temporary shelter that has electricity, water, ablution facilities and importantly, security.
* Food, clothing and other needs; but Gumede said this was being addressed by NGOs.
* Integration back into the community.
Meanwhile, Isipingo Community Police Forum chairman, Denzil Reddy, said the convergence of the displaced people had made it difficult for normal policing to take place.
“During the night more people flock to the police station. They are using the toilets (meant) for the police staff. Children are running around in the parking lot which is dangerous,” he said.
Last night the police station entrance and parking areas were littered with paper plates, discarded canned foods and dirt.
People were sleeping around the station blocks, underneath office containers, in their cars and under trees.
Some loitered around the station premises, urinated along the fences and trees and spoke loudly, much to the anger of police on duty.
Daniel Dunia, the group’s representative, told Gumede they were not happy with the situation.
“We have nothing to sleep on. This is unacceptable.”
Democratic Republic of Congo’s ambassador to South Africa, Bene M’Poko, said he was doing all he could to help his countrymen and expressed disappointment at the attacks on them.
“Their lives are destroyed; some have nothing to go back to because the places they were living in have been looted and their shops have been vandalised. They have nothing but fear for their lives.
“We want to appeal to our South African brothers to maintain African solidarity. We need to work together to help each other,” M’Poko said.