Fear and loathing of foreigners run deep

BEST FOOT FORWARD: Foreigners and residents of Gugulethu enjoy themselves during a fun in Srings. Pic. Mohau Mofokeng. 14/08/2008. © Sowetan.
BEST FOOT FORWARD: Foreigners and residents of Gugulethu enjoy themselves during a fun in Srings. Pic. Mohau Mofokeng. 14/08/2008. © Sowetan.

Namhla Tshisela

Namhla Tshisela

"I watched him burn to death. Did you expect me to cry for him?" Lungiswa Gobozi asked without flinching.

She pointed to the spot where Ernesto Alfabeto Nhamuave died almost three months ago.

Pictures of a burning Nhamuave, with arms flailing in anguish, brought the horror of the xenophobic attacks home to South Africa and the world.

The patch where Nhamuave died stands eerily empty.

Gobozi, of Ramaphosa informal settlement in Reiger Park, Ekurhuleni, spoke callously about Nhamuave on the eve of the dismantling of the six shelters for victims of xenophobia.

The government has said foreigners have to be reintegrated into communities because the shelters were temporary.

A small group of women and men gathering around a mobile public phone, explicitly expressed their hatred of foreigners, particularly Shangaans.

"Never!" cried the group almost in unison when asked if they would welcome foreigners back in their community.

"They can go wherever your government says they must go, but they can't come back here," said Susan Mampa.

"We can't live together. We are enemies," said Gobozi.

The group said the attacks were in retaliation for crimes and injustices allegedly perpetuated by foreigners against locals.

Mampa said the "war" was sparked by a school yard fight between two girls, one Shangaan, the other a Zulu.

"We don't know what the girls fought about but the Shangaans arrived at my neighbour Khumalo's yard and started shooting," Mampa said.

"We woke up at about 11pm to the sounds of gunfire and men shouting 'Frelimo! Frelimo!'."

Mampa related how the "Shangaans gouged Khumalo's eyes out and mutilated him".

"It was a painful death," she said..

The residents say Ramaphosa is safer without the foreigners.

"We can now walk in the streets at night without fear," Andile Makhanda said.

Chasing clients away from the public phone, Mampa said quietly: "Please leave now and don't bring your foreigners here."

The fear and loathing in Ramaphosa is in stark contrast to the warmth of the Gugulethu informal settlement in Springs.

Here the shack dwellers, locals and foreigners, converge on the Everest sports ground for a fun run and walk.

Their excitement is palpable.

MEC for sport, arts, culture and recreation Barbara Creecy fires the starter's gun, launching the first Gugulethu-Everest Unity Games between the two settlements.

Creecy said the settlements were "good examples" of reintegration in progress.

She said the residents had "responded positively" to pleas by the government and had warmly welcomed foreigners back.

Local councillor John Nxumalo said out of 250 foreigners who had fled the area 120 had returned.

"It has been a month and there's peace," he said. "Residents helped rebuild destroyed homes."