victims get shelter

Pertunia Ratsatsi

Pertunia Ratsatsi

More than 200 immigrants who were victims of recent attacks in Atteridgeville, Pretoria, have been relocated.

The immigrants, from several African countries, have been living at the Mangena Primary School but have now been moved to other temporary premises in Marabastad, Pretoria.

On March 11 residents of the Brazzaville informal settlement attacked the foreigners, burning and looting their businesses and homes.

Four people, including two locals, were killed in the attack. Several other people were injured during the violence.

The victims said they were frustrated because no one was helping them retrieve their belongings. Some said they had run out of food and they and their families were becoming more destitute by the day.

Shilla Gumbo, 22, in the last stages of pregnancy and a mother of three, said she was concerned about the xenophobic attacks on them.

Gumbo told Sowetan: "I arrived in this country after crossing the border through a fence with my boyfriend because he could not find a job in Zimbabwe.

"Our shack was destroyed and most of our belongings were stolen.

"I almost lost my unborn baby when we were dragged out of our shack. I don't want to go back to that place [where we were attacked] because they can kill me. My children and I are safe here and they are in school."

She said Department of Home Affairs officials promised not to deport her because she was eight months pregnant.

"They said I might give birth while on my way back home," Gumbo said.

Takalane Muga, 28, said she was a South African citizen, but her shack was also destroyed because her husband was a Zimbabwean.

"I come from Siloam in Venda, but I am treated like a foreigner," Muga said.

" I was forcibly removed from my shack when my baby was just a day old.

"I don't feel safe in my own country and my husband is always in hiding because he might be killed. I can't go back to Venda and leave my husband and children behind.

The relocation came five days after Home Affairs Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula told the Brazzaville community that legal immigrants would be escorted back to their homes by Sunday. At the meeting at the Atteridgeville police station Mapisa-Nqakula lashed out at the locals.

"I don't care if people have lost their girlfriends, jobs or businesses to foreigners," she said.

"Whatever the problems and challenges, they cannot be justified by the loss of life. Criminal activities were committed and people should be arrested.

"Police have the responsibility to perform their duties. They can't tell us that there is nothing to work on. We are not going to create refugee camps because a few people hate them. South Africa is hailed by the international community because we integrate with immigrants."

The meeting was aimed at finding out what triggered attacks on foreigners.

In January businesses belonging to foreigners were looted and their shacks destroyed by Soshanguve residents who accused them of being behind crime in the township.