Foreigners fear looming violence

FOREIGNERS are fleeing the country as rumours about imminent xenophobic attacks spread.

Some have already sent most of their belongings home.

"I am scared. It has happened before so if they say they will attack us again, I have no reason not to believe them," said Thonene Mashaba of the Ramaphosa informal settlement in Ekurhuleni.

The 24-year-old Mozambican came to South Africa a few years ago.

"Things are better here than in Mozambique. But if we are chased away we will have no choice but to go back home," Mashaba said.

He said he had already sent some of his belongings to Mozambique in case attacks started.

Mashaba's countryman and colleague, Jugenio Sithole, said locals had again started accusing them of stealing their jobs.

"I did not steal anybody's job. I do people's hair and that's it," he said.

Their boss, Enerst Ngwenya, who was born in Mozambique and came to South Africa when he was nine, said he would be forced to close one of his salons if his employees fled.

"It would be a loss on my side but I cannot force them to stay. Their lives are more important than money," he said.

Shop owners Mohamed Abikar and Abdinoor Farah said they had cut down on stock because they were afraid of being attacked.

"They have told us to leave immediately after the World Cup," Abikar said. "It's painful. We don't sleep well at night because we are not sure if they will wait until the set date."

Farah said he could not understand why South Africans accused them of stealing their jobs.

"Instead, we create jobs for local people. We make sure that we employ people from the area," Farah said.

Resident Richard Mchemu said foreigners should go because they were competing for the limited number of jobs with locals.

"I support those who say they must be attacked.," he said. "There are many of them in our country.

"Another problem I have with them is that they do crime because they know their fingerprints are not in our system."

Community leader Selina Bodibe said they had appealed to residents not to attack foreigners.

"We cannot guarantee their safety but we will do all we can to protect them," Bodibe said.