'Nothing like this in 100 years'

Getrude Makhafola

Getrude Makhafola

The narrow streets of 90-year-old Alexandra lit up as government officials in shining luxury cars made their way into the tension-gripped township.

Four Gauteng MECs and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela went into the trenches and spoke to survivors and people on the streets, with Madikizela-Mandela apologising to the families of those engulfed by the xenophobic onslaught.

Journalists jostled for limited space while residents screamed the names of politicians surrounded by bodyguards.

"We do not have a problem with foreigners," a woman told Community Safety MEC Firoz Cachalia.

"Our children, sir, do not want to work. These people are destitute but can get up and do something for themselves," she said.

"Why should they fight them? For almost 100 years, something like this has never happened."

A group of men at a nearby beer hall sipped on their sorghum beer, though with tension written all over their faces.

Seemingly drowning his sorrows, Albert Mnguni said he was afraid to venture deep into the township because, as a dark-skinned man from Limpopo, he would run the risk of an attack, based solely on his skin's pigmentation.

"This country is messed up. What freedom fighters fought for is long gone," he said.

Susan Banda, 83, said she left for Mafikeng, North West, on the day the onslaught was unleashed.

"I am married to a Malawian. Who knows what could have happened to me had I not left?"

Spaza shops and hair salons were open for business but with little response from potential customers whose eyes were fixated on the guests in business suits.

By 6pm, JMPD officials in riot gear scattered themselves to safeguard the streets.

"We are just readying ourselves for any late-night mischief that might come up. One never knows," said one official.