Tembisa mob drives foreigners away

Foreign nationals were chased away and their shacks burnt in Vusimuzi, Tembisa, on Wednesday night. / Thulani Mbele
Foreign nationals were chased away and their shacks burnt in Vusimuzi, Tembisa, on Wednesday night. / Thulani Mbele

Just like during the dark days of apartheid South Africa, your identity card or document could spare your life.

This is the situation in overcrowded Tembisa, east of Johannesburg, where an armed mob of locals is terrorising Vusimuzi informal settlement, demanding to see South African IDs as they "flush out" foreigners.

Madoda Sango* was rudely awoken by a loud knock on his shack door on Wednesday just before midnight with people shouting, "Hey wena mfana wo Mshangane [Hey you Shangaan boy], vula la, sifuna ukubona iID yakho [open this door, we want to see your ID]".

Sango's shack was among those razed or demolished as community members went from shack to shack forcing foreign nationals to leave the area. Yesterday, a number of shacks and businesses mostly belonging to foreigners were burnt and only sheets of zinc and rubbish remained where the shacks once stood.

Sango, 29, originally from Port Elizabeth, was sleeping with his girlfriend and their nine-year-old daughter.

"When I opened the door a group of community members armed with sticks and pangas forcefully entered my shack and some started helping themselves to my furniture. I told my girlfriend to run away with our daughter as I tried to explain to the people that I am South African," Sango said.

His plea, however, fell on deaf ears as they started demolishing his shack.

"My shop, which is just next door, was already burning."

A street away Sowetan met two women from Zimbabwe.

"Things are bad here. We do not want to attract attention to ourselves. As women we fear for our lives because we don't know when they will come knocking on our doors," they said as they hurried away.

A 36-year-old Zimbabwean woman said she had to ask a South African friend to house her after fleeing with her baby.

A local, Mathapelo Sekgodi, 60, said they were not against people from outside the country but SA had a crisis of over-crowding that needs to be resolved. "It is time for the government to listen to our voices as South Africans and not hide behind the xenophobic violence attacks," she said.

Ekurhuleni municipality's acting spokesperson Solly Mashabela said: "About 40 foreigners had to run to the Tembisa police station and transport was arranged to take them to the shelters in Katlehong."

Police spokesperson Cpt Nelda Sekgobela said: "I heard that on Wednesday a group of people were chasing away foreigners and burning their shacks and most of the foreigners were displaced. But no one opened a case as they just ran away."

* Not his real name.

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