Category Archives: Amukelani Chauke

Popular Opposition to Xenophobia in Ramaphosa

South Africans in rare anti-xenophobia march

South Africa was hit by a wave of deadly xenophobic violence in 2008

A crowd marched through an informal settlement in Johannesburg chanting: “We want the Somalis to stay.”

The march was intended to counter a protest by local businessmen demanding the closure of foreign-owned shops.

“I’ll never allow foreigners to take bread from my mouth,” a South African businessman told the BBC.

‘Greedy and jealous’

He said that South Africans fought for democracy, and it would be a “criminal offence” to allow foreigners to dominate trade.

“I’m a businessman who wants to make a profit,” he told the BBC’s Focus on Africa programme.

But the anti-xenophobia campaigners, who were all mostly women, rallied to the defence of the Somali and Pakistani shop owners in the Ramaphosa informal settlement, which witnessed some of the worst violence during anti-foreigner riots in 2008.

“They are the only shops from where we can buy things cheaply,” one of the marchers said, adding that local businessmen were “greedy and jealous”.

The BBC’s Nomsa Maseko in Johannesburg says that as the rival groups demonstrated, the Somalis and Pakistanis locked their shops and stayed indoors while armed police patrolled the area.

“The police are giving us protection,” a Somali businessman said.

“They told me to close my shop for own protection,” he said.

At least 62 people died in attacks on foreigners that swept the country three years ago.

Xenophobia meets its match
Women stand up for hounded foreign shop owners

Jun 2, 2011 12:21 AM | By AMUKELANI CHAUKE

What started out as a drive to evict Somali and Pakistani businessmen from a township notorious for xenophobia has backfired spectacularly.

Women residents from the Ramaphosa informal settlement east of Johannesburg have stood up to spaza shop owners who tried to order their foreign competitors out of the area.

In the early hours of yesterday, the shopkeepers, members of the Greater Gauteng Business Forum, had driven around the settlement inviting residents to join them in taking action against “Somali and Kulas [Pakistani]” businessmen.

Forum members complain that the foreign nationals are in South Africa illegally, do not pay taxes and sell expired goods at low prices.

Forum members marched down the main streets of Ramaphosa, ordering the foreigners to shut shop and leave. This despite a High Court order handed down last week prohibiting the intimidation of foreign nationals, and an instruction from the Reiger Park Police Station commander to stop their “illegal march”.

They chased away one Somali man and forced another to close his store. But at one of the main Somali-owned shops, they met with resistance: a large group of women, some carrying babies, demanded that their bosses be left alone.

Cynthia Mtikiki, who works in one of the shops, said their livelihoods would be in danger should the foreigners be chased away.

She shouted: “They give us jobs, but you are denying us this opportunity. If you want them to leave, then you must give us jobs. What will our children eat? Where will I get money to send them to school?”

Vinoliah Maluma, who works for a Somali businessmen, said the forum’s actions were prompted by nothing but “greed and jealousy”.

“The same guys who want our bosses to leave treat us badly, and they pay us R800 a month.

“But the Somalis pay us R2000 and they don’t bring their own people, they employ locals.”

Lucia Khumalo, a pensioner, said the Somali and Pakistani businessmen treated customers better.

“Even when [I am] short of R1, they give me the bread and tell me I can pay next time,” she said.

“When it is the middle of the month, they give me groceries and tell me I can pay them when I get my pension. They don’t even take my number or address, that is how much they trust us,” she said.

The Somali business owners said that despite the court order and the heavy police presence in the neighbourhood, they lived in fear.

Mohamed Antar said: “If the government is allowing us to do business and the residents are supporting us then these people [the forum] are just jealous.”

Since March, the forum has chased foreign businessmen from Ramaphosa and other areas, including Katlehong, Thokoza and Soweto.

More than 80 of its members have been arrested on charges of intimidation and holding an illegal public gathering.

Forum spokesman Johannes Ramaropene earlier told the crowd they wanted the businessmen to leave the area without violence, failing which “blood will be spilt”.

The Times: No freedom yet in stinking Zandspruit

No freedom yet in stinking Zandspruit
Apr 27, 2011 9:58 PM | By AMUKELANI CHAUKE and CALEB MELBY

Thania Moyo has to walk for five minutes through densely packed shacks to use a neighbourhood toilet in the yard of a family friend.

Though the 16-year-old was born in a democratic South Africa, she says she is not sure what freedom means.

Moyo has spent her life of “freedom” sharing a tiny shack with her parents and sister Samantha, 15, in the Zandspruit informal settlement, northwest of Johannesburg.

“Life is tough for us. If I want to use the toilet at night, I must leave our shack and walk to my neighbour on the other side,” she said yesterday.

“It is not always safe because it is sometimes dark when the street lights are not working.”

For the past few weeks, residents have burned tyres and blockaded roads in protest against the lack of toilets and sewerage, drains, roads, refuse collection and electricity.

The area was calm yesterday. There was a heavy police presence and a police helicopter flew over the shacks.

“I cannot explain what Freedom Day means, but I don’t think this is it,” Moyo said.

“The government should build houses with toilets in the area because there is no privacy here.”

Across the settlement, David Majozi celebrated Freedom Day sick and unemployed.

The clinic in Zandspruit was closed for the holiday.

“The clinic is one of the hardest problems we face,” said Majozi, who has lived in the settlement for 27 years. “It is understaffed. It is too small.

“When it is open, the queue stretches forever. Even if you are very sick, they tell you ‘Go home; come back tomorrow’.”

Both of Majozi’s eyes are infected, and a bulbous tumour protrudes below his left eye.

He is one of many Zandspruit residents who feel disillusioned about the democracy that was to have made life better.

The sewerage cap at the clinic, like so many pipes throughout Zandspruit, leaks grey water into nearby shacks and onto the road, forming a stream that fills the paths between homes, and flows under the floor of some houses.

Some residents have placed bricks across their floors and paths to allow them to walk without stepping into the muck.

The streams run down to a reservoir that separates the informal settlement from neighbouring middle-class suburbs such as Honeydew and Sonnedal.

Danie Tsabo, who lives in a shack with his wife and four children, says toilets are in such high demand that some of his neighbours have padlocked theirs so that they have sole use of them.

As he spoke, Tsabo stared at a photograph of a house belonging to his former employer, who left South Africa in 2002.

“Even if I don’t get this house, I dream that one day I can move to a decent house with my family,” he said.

Christina Ralane applied for a house in 1996: “We are promised houses and nothing . but empty promises. Nothing gets better. ”