News reports: Violence Spreads to Settlements in Durban & Cape Town

Violence Spreads to Settlements in Durban & Cape Town

In Durban people have been chased out of their homes in Chatsworth and Cato Manor. There have been no incidents in any Abahlali settlements and the movement is working 24 hours a day across the City to oppose this.

Tensions high in shack settlements
Foreigners flee Durban homes

May 23, 2008 Edition 1

Mercury Reporters

FOREIGNERS in Durban are fleeing their homes in numbers for the sanctuary of police stations, community halls and religious centres as fears rise for their safety.

Last night The Mercury received several reports of sporadic incidents of violence, including a 23-year-old Malawian man who was shot in Wiggins Road, near the police station. Netcare 911 spokesman Chris Botha said the man was seriously injured and taken to hospital.

KwaZulu-Natal police have refused to label any of the attacks aimed almost exclusively at foreigners as xenophobic, insisting that they have been “more criminal than anything”.

Community safety and liaison MEC Bheki Cele addressed refugees at the Cato Manor police station who had been driven from their homes on Wednesday night. He tried to allay the fears of the immigrants, who refused to return to their homes.

Tensions were high in the Cato Crest shack settlement as residents roamed the streets carrying knobkieries and axe handles.

More than 500 foreigners have been gathered at the Cato Manor police station since Wednesday night when two were assaulted.


Infants were among them, all of whom were depending on charity for food and clothing.

Many said they had been threatened and told to leave their homes. They feared that incidents of people being burnt or stoned to death in Gauteng could be repeated in KZN.

These fears became reality for a group of Malawians living in Kenville when a petrol bomb was thrown into their house on Wednesday night. They escaped without injury and were being housed at a local mosque and the Greenwood Park police station.

Fifteen South Africans and three Malawians in a neighbouring house were targeted by the same mob, which stole cellphones, wallets and other items.

Police Insp Elvis Naidoo said the attackers were using xenophobia as an excuse to engage in crime.

South African Ncane Mkhize said the mob that torched her neighbour’s house entered her home and held up her and her 7-year-old daughter. A television set, DVD player and cellphones were stolen.

Naidoo said police would increase their patrols in the area.

At the Greenwood Park police station, Malawian Petro Palanda said he was living in fear. All the money he had saved to send to his family was burnt, along with his passport. Another Malawian said he had saved R5 000 since 2006 which was lost in the fire.

In Cato Manor on Wednesday, two foreigners were seriously injured by a mob. One sustained two gunshot wounds to the chest. The other was struck with a blunt object.

The two were among a group forced from their shacks and who sought refuge at the police station.

These incidents followed a day after a Nigerian-owned tavern in Umbilo Road, Durban, was attacked by men from a nearby hostel.

Patrons were robbed, and the building and cars were damaged. Alcohol, TVs and cash were taken.

Foreigners also gathered at a hall in Chatsworth yesterday after being chased out of their homes.

Reports were that Zimbabweans had been beaten and chased out of their homes by locals in the Bottlebrush informal settlement on Wednesday night.

Chipo Chipoko sat with her two-week-old daughter in her arms trying to breastfeed her.

Climate Mushanga said the attackers started their rampage at 6pm and spent the next four hours looting and beating foreigners.

“It was Xhosa-speaking people and they came around with bush knives, sjamboks, axes and guns. They took everything, our food and clothes, and chased us away.”

Mushanga said notes were stuck on their doors telling them to leave.

Many displaced foreigners pleaded to be given transport to go home to Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

Police Capt Edmund Singh said an arrest was made yesterday and investigations were ongoing.

About 200 Zimbabweans are also being accommodated at a Durban city centre church. Timothy Rukombo said they fled to the church in light of attacks.

“What the people are doing to the foreigners is savagery. It is almost like what is happening back home in Zimbabwe. We will stay here, though, because things are still worse across the border.”

Percy Nhau slammed local police action, alleging apathy and indifference. “Where are the police? It is as if they are afraid to respond when they attack us,” he said.

Police Dir Phindile Radebe repeated statements that the attacks were purely criminal and not linked to xenophobia.

She added that police were increasing patrols in targeted areas, and that they had the resources to handle any problems.

Now violence hits Cape Town
23 May 2008, 07:13

by Caryn Dolley

Xenophobic violence spread to the Western Cape on Thursday night with hundreds of terrified foreigners forced to run for their lives from a number of informal settlements.

In Du Noon in Milnerton hundreds fled from the settlement and late on Thursday night there were unconfirmed reports of similar incidents in Ocean View and Joe Slovo in Langa. Earlier in the day Witlokasie in Knysna also erupted.

Foreigners, mainly Somalis, crammed into police vans and were driven to safety from Du Noon. One with blood pouring from his arm and foot cried for help as his friends helped him into a police van.

More than 30 armoured police vehicles, vans and cars streamed into the area while a police helicopter hovered above.

As the sound of shots being fired was heard, the foreigners already grouped outside the entrances of the settlement huddled closer together, many covering their faces with their hands.

“I was forced out. I was chased away. They took all my things. They said if I come back they will kill me. Now I must go back to Somalia,” Mohamed Adan, a Somali shopkeeper said.

Two Chinese nationals trembled as they ran from the shacks to the other side of the street behind a number of police officers and vehicles.

They said a mob had stormed their shop and kicked them out.

“I thought I was going to die. I don’t know where my brother is, he’s still in there. Why is this happening?,” one said as tears streamed down his face. He was too afraid to give his name.

Sirens could be heard in and around the informal settlement and police vehicles lined the streets while others sped off as news spread that foreigners were apparently being kicked out of other areas.

A number of Somalis stood in the street, flagging down police vans and begging the officers to escort them back into the area so they could find missing relatives.

And panic spread as more realised friends and family members were not with them.

“Please help me, what must I do or go?” one man begged those around him.

The sirens often drowned out their voices as some of them tried to contact family members with their cellphones and had to give up as they could not hear.

Provincial police commissioner Mzwandile Petros arrived at the scene, but after briefly talking on his cellphone, he was speedily driven to another area with a number of police vehicles in tow.

At one stage a plume of smoke could be seen rising from somewhere in the settlement and shivering foreigners gathered to watch, wandering if it was perhaps their looted store that was burning.

While groups of them were standing, waiting to be driven to safety, a bakkie drove up and parked nearby and they scrambled to get the blankets being offered to them.

A local Du Noon resident, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal, said he was ashamed of how his “neighbours” were acting.

“Even I’m too scared to go in there now. These foreigners sell us food. We need them here. I don’t know why they’re being chased out.”

He said the looting had started after a community meeting about the xenophobic clashes in Gauteng and how it may spread to the Western Cape.

“Everything was calm. And then after the meeting the residents started gathering and forming a mass. That’s when all this started,” he said shaking his head.

Meanwhile, at the Killarney race course, scores of foreigners gathered under police guard.

“I don’t know where I’m going from here. I don’t even care anymore,” one Somali man, sitting on the pavement with his hands in head, said.

A joint operations centre had been set up there and disaster management, police and other emergency personnel swarmed the area speaking on walkie talkies.

One could be heard trying to set up a temporary mortuary in case violence erupted and people were killed.

In the streets around Du Noon a number of police vans were seen packed with officers sitting and clutching rifles.

Further away officers were also stopping vehicles apparently warning them about what was happening.

Meanwhile, more than 100 people from other parts of Africa living in an informal settlement in Knysna sought refuge at the town’s police station last night after five Somali-owned spaza shops were looted.

Although none of the foreigners living in Witlokasie had been attacked or received threats, they felt at risk, police spokesperson Malcolm Pojie said. They were given accommodation in a community hall.

Police reinforcements were sent to Witlokasie and neighbouring police stations placed on standby.

Earlier on Thursday, after the first spaza shop was looted, a handful of Somalis gathered at the Knysna police station.

Hours later, the number had grown to about 120, and included people from countries other than Somalia, Pojie said.

“We’re trying to calm the situation now. We’re also urging the community please not to continue with such actions.”

A Somali-owned shop had been looted about 11.40am and one of two shopkeepers slightly injured in a scuffle, Pojie said.

It was not clear who had looted the shop or whether a mob was responsible. By nightfall,
five Somali shops had been looted.

Pojie believed a number of others might have been plundered, without being reported. Foreigners in the area had begun making their way to the police station.

When their numbers increased, they were told the hall would be available to them.

“Some of the (shopkeepers) emptied their shops and took all their goods with them.

“I’m not sure if more will arrive, but it seems these are most of Witlokasie’s (foreigners).”

ANC Western Cape secretary Mcebisi Skwatsha said he was in Knysna on Thursday to prevent anti-foreigner violence.

“But the intervention, in the form of an emergency community meeting, came too late to stop the burning and looting of five Somali-owned shops by a mob of xenophobic thugs,” Skwatsha said.

Speaking in Witlokasie after the meeting, and with relative calm restored to the area, Skwatsha repeated his call on ANC members to provide leadership in their communities by speaking out against violence.

“We once again express our disgust, embarrassment and profound apologies to the people from neighbouring states now living in our midst.

“But words alone will not stop this sickness. We call on the police and other security forces to do their work, arrest the perpetrators and ensure thorough investigations are conducted that will lead to the severest punishments.”

Meanwhile, Metrorail Protection Services, security contractors and the Railway Police have deployed additional staff at key strategic points on the rail system.

Said Stephen Ngobeni, regional manager of Metrorail in the Western Cape: “Commuters can expect random searches on trains and at stations to ensure that no weapons are taken on to trains or stations. We ask our customers to bear with the inconvenience, but our actions are taken with their safety at heart.”

Police spokesperson Billy Jones said attacks could be reported to a 24-hour line 021 467 8786 or anonymously to CrimeStop 0860010111.


* This article was originally published on page 1 of The Cape Times on May 23, 2008