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DON’T COME HOME

by Samora Chapman & Robyn Perros / 15.04.2015

It’s 3pm in the afternoon, Tuesday 14 April, Durban city. Foreigners have gathered on Point (Mahatma Gandhi) Road, and are ready to fight for their lives. About 200 people are in the street: Nigerians, Congolese, Burundians, Tanzanians, Zimbabweans, Malawians, Zambians, Mozambicans. They are standing together, waiting for the gangs that have been sweeping the city in the latest xenophobic attacks.

As we arrive, two men are slicing the concrete with machete’s. The sound is chilling, like fingernails on a blackboard. People are clashing with police further up the road. But the first person we talk to is pleading for peace. “Why are the Zulus killing us? We are black like them. We have the same colour blood. We are all African.”

Point Road plays home to many African immigrants, having fled the more economically depressed and war-torn parts of the continent.

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“We escaped from our country because of war. I fought for many years in Congo,” says Patrick from Goma in the DRC, showing me the scars on his back. “Now war is following us, so we must fight. We are not scared to die. We died long ago in the war. Another generation will come.”

The community on Point Road is trapped between the harbour and the ocean. They claim that “their brothers” were murdered on Russell Street earlier that morning. Those that work outside the CBD are too afraid to leave Point. Some have family in Umlazi and KwaMashu.

“My wife and child are in Umlazi,” explains a Nigerian man, who is married to a local woman. “She just phoned me and said: ‘do not come home’.”

All foreign-owned shops on Point Road are closed; the ground is littered with shards of glass, tires smoulder in the road. We can’t ascertain whether the skirmishes here have been between foreigners and police, or foreigners and locals.

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One man tells us that after clashes on West (Pixley Ka Seme) Street, police barricaded Point Road, where hundreds of foreigners live. But another claims that police escorted four mini bus taxis full of vigilantes into the area earlier in the day. Confusion reigns.

The police presence dwindles as night descends, and the people await darkness.

“We are armed. Do not worry,” says a young man in denim and gold chains.

“We will not sleep tonight,” says Doctor, a smart looking man from the DRC. “They killed our brothers on Russell Street today. And look what they are doing to our people in the mjondolos…” he shows me a slew of images and videos on his phone. A massive crowd swamps us and we watch children being burned with necklaces of rubber fire on the small screen. I feel dizzy as the blood rushes to my head. My heart tingles, stomach churns.

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It is unclear where or when the videos and pictures were taken… but it doesn’t matter. To these people – their children are burning. They are under siege here. Members of the SAP can be seen in the images, watching the violence, one is even grinning.

A man, who wished to remain anonymous urged us to spread the following message: “Zulu people said that they will finish us through taxis now after they failed on Point Road. Send this to all foreigners that you know – it’s better to walk for a week and remain alive than to rush with a taxi that will bring you to death.”

The battles in the city are the latest in an outbreak of xenophobic violence that has spread across KZN, allegedly sparked by a speech made by Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini in which he called for foreigners to “pack their bags and go home”.

On Monday night, a massive tide of violence and looting swept KwaMashu, Ntuzuma and Umlazi, Durban’s largest townships on the outskirts of the city. Allegedly, the gangs were over a thousand strong, outnumbering both police and foreigners. Thousands of foreign nationals have been displaced and injured, several killed.

Relief camps have been set up in Chatsworth and Isipingo to assist the displaced people. They are in desperate need of resources, see details below.

Yesterday the violence came to town, in the heart of the Durban CBD.

The community on Point Road is just one small and isolated group under threat. Complicating the situation is the fact that the area is infamous for drugs, crime and prostitution… shifting the focus of these attacks, creating room for spin and smokescreens. Suddenly they’re not heinous xenophobic hate crimes, instead they become acts of civic vigilantism.

We leave you with the wise words of Gino, a tall stately man whose doorstep we were gathered on: “I’m from Congo, yes, but Congo is for everyone not for me. These countries belong to God. You think in Nigeria there are no South Africans there? Even in Burundi, there are South Africans there. This is not heaven. South Africa is not the most beautiful country in the world. We are here because we don’t like what our government is doing in our country. The government of South Africa must make a decision. The department for refugees must make a decision. Not them. Not those crooks.”

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CONTACTS FOR PUBLIC

Gift of the Givers

Gift of the Givers have been working around the clock to get foreign nationals safely to the camps. They are in need of assistance and deposits can be made into Gift of the Givers, Standard Bank, Pietermaritzburg, Account No. 052137228, Branch Code 057525. Please email or fax deposit slip with full contact details for acknowledgement purposes. All contributions are tax deductible. For donations in kind (food, blankets, sanitary items, hygenie packs, disposable nappies etc), to volunteer, or any other queries can call their toll free line on 0800786911.

http://www.giftofthegivers.org/contact-us/contact-details
https://www.facebook.com/GiftoftheGivers?fref=ts

South African Red Cross Society (SARCS)

SARCS is assisting at all refugee sites and providing three meals a day to 2000 people. They are urgently requesting the public to donate food, as they are not funded and are running low on supplies. SARCS is feeding the bare minimum and humbly requests the public to donate food.

You can assist the Red Cross in raising funds for supplies here: https://www.ammado.com/community/154473

Supplies needed: Hygiene packs, disposable nappies, baby formula, sanitary pads, toilet paper, disinfectant, baby cereals, tea, sugar, milk, rice, chicken portions, vegetables, dried beans, bread, peanut butter and jam.

You can donate to the cause or drop off supplies at their drop off points. Call  031 563 2914 for more info.

http://www.redcross.org.za/
https://www.facebook.com/SouthAfricanRedCrossKwazuluNatal?fref=ts&ref=br_tf

Refugee Social Services NPO (Durban)

For more info contact Refugee Social Services, Durban on 031 310 3578.
http://www.refugeesocialservices.co.za/index.php/contact
https://www.facebook.com/RefugeeSocialServices

Peace March

There will be a peace march led by eThekwini Mayor James Xumalo and KZN Premier Senzo Mchunu this Thursday, 16 April. The march will call on people to unite against violence directed at foreign nationals.

Date: 16 April
Time: 10am
Place: Curries Fountain to the City Hall

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