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'Somalis come here to take our women and behave like this is their country - so I killed them'

By unknown | Mar 04, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Thanduxolo Jika

Thanduxolo Jika

Andile Tunzana has the blood of Somali refugees on his hands and, as he sits in Mdantsane Prison serving two life sentences, he has finally told why he killed them.

"We knew they had a lot of money in their shops and had no guns to fight back," said the 26-year-old killer.

He is now doing hard time for killing the refugees - who ran spaza shops near East London.

"We shot those who tried to resist and then looked for money. No one cared for them in the township because they are grigambas."

Tunzana's account confirms how government policy predisposes Somali refugees to become victims in a country which they hoped would offer them sanctuary.

Since his conviction by the East London high court in 2006, Tunzana says he has converted to Islam - the religion of his victims - and adopted the name Ismael Junaid.

It was his conversion that led to him agreeing to his jail interviews with the Daily Despatch. We conducted hours of interviews with him as part of a four-month investigation into the killing of Somalis. We lived with Somalis to understand the hatred directed at them; we spoke to police investigators, to witnesses, survivors and independent experts.

We were also present when corrupt Home Affairs officials took bribes from refugees desperate to renew their permits.

The picture that has emerged is clear: Somalis become victims of crime because of state policy which provides them with limited legal protection, does not allow them to live a normal life or have access to institutions such as banks. They are left vulnerable to be preyed on by criminals and corrupt officials in communities that reject them.

At the time of the murders in 2005, Tunzana was on the run, having escaped from custody while awaiting trial on another murder charge. He and his accomplices robbed and murdered Mohammed Nasier Omar and Mahamud Abdi Mohammed at their spaza shop in Mzamo Street, Duncan Village, on July 5 2005.

Earlier, he had shot and wounded Mohammed Ismail on the thigh and Mashafa Muhammed in the jaw at their Mtendeni Street, Duncan Village, spaza shop and shot and wounded Daniel Dala, a security guard at a Somali-owned shop at CC Lloyd township.

Tunzana said the Somali spaza shops were easy targets. "We got information they were not banking their money and, instead, were hiding it in their shops.

Tunzana said they planned their attacks around the Somalis' prayer times. They knew that while other Somalis went to pray there would be only one shopkeeper.

"The Somalis were just other foreign people with money and no one cared about them."

Tunzana said on the day of their rampage they had told themselves they were going to get rid of Somalis. "Ta Ero (Eric Nanto, his accomplice) said let's kill these things (Somalis) and get rid of them. They come here to take our women and behave like this is their country."

They showed no mercy.

Buzani Nkunzana, an eye-witness to the robbery and shooting of Ismail and Muhammed, recalled what happened after Tunzana and his three accomplices stormed the spaza that afternoon.

"I heard people shouting and demanding money from the Somalis. I then saw the two Somalis walking backwards and a person was pointing a gun at them." Nkunzana saw the Somalis gunned down.

Despite Tunzana's conversion to Islam, he still refers to his victims by the derogatory amagrigamba term.

"If I had taken up Islam before, I would not have robbed and killed my brothers. I hope for forgiveness now." - Daily Dispatch


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