News / Africa

    S. Africa Xenophobic Attacks Terrify Foreign Nationals

    Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africai
    April 16, 2015 4:13 AM
    South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
    Thuso KhumaloAnita Powell

    Thousands of people marched through the South African city of Durban on Thursday to protest recent anti-immigrant violence that has left five people dead and thousands displaced.

    Around 4,000 people marched through Durban, chanting "down with xenophobia" and "a United Africa" at an event attended by residents, students and local religious and political leaders.

    In a suburb of Johannesburg, police fired rubber bullets and tear gas on Thursday to disperse a crowd of anti-immigrant protesters aiming to attack foreign-owned shops.

    The violence first targeted shops owned by foreign nationals, largely from Somalia and Ethiopia. Now it's spreading against all African foreigners, leaving many feeling terrified and hopeless. 

    Somalia national Ebrahim Mohamad Ali runs a coffee shop in Johannesburg.  Memories of the 2008 xenophobic attacks in South Africa are still fresh in his mind. He lost his auto repair business – and his brother.

    "They killed him in that robbery, for xenophobia. Me, I lost all my tools, all my money," Mohamad said.

    The anti-immigrant violence erupted again in recent weeks. Somali and Ethiopian nationals owning grocery shops in Soweto township were the first to be targeted. They were beaten and chased away by locals who took over their businesses.

    Foreign shop owners in the port city of Durban were the next to be targeted, two weeks ago, and now all African foreign nationals are being told to pack up and leave. Thousands have been displaced and are living in makeshift camps.

    • A woman holds up a sign reading "We are all foreigners somewhere!" during a peace march after anti-immigrant violence flared in Durban, April 16, 2015.
    • Police encourage a group of foreign nationals to move back to their homes after a peace march in Durban, April 16, 2015.
    • Hundreds of people participate in a peace march after anti-immigrant violence flared in Durban, April 16, 2015.
    • People protesting against xenophobia in South Africa hold placards in front of the South African consulate in Lagos, April 16, 2015.
    • A foreign national clears items from his shop for fear of attacks in Primrose outside Johannesburg, April 16, 2015.

    Foreign nationals frightened

    Ethiopian national Sarah Kidane is still traumatized after being violently forced out of her shop in Soweto.

    "I’m not feeling OK," said a tearful Kidane. "I was losing too much. I was losing my life.... I don’t have any choice now. Go back there? The people are not good; they will start again" with the violence.

    Other victims say South African police are turning a blind eye to their fate. 

    "I did go to report for the police but no one helped me that time. I was in the police station, even -- no police even that time.  I don’t know what was happening.  I didn’t receive anything,” said Gitaw Aniyo, 32.

    Many others, like 25-year-old John Alemu, say they are puzzled by the attacks.

    "We are African brothers, but they give us problems here. They kill our brothers and they rob our own shops," Alemu said.

    On Thursday, South Africa's president, Jacob Zuma, denounced the anti-immigrant attacks and called for an end to the violence, Reuters news agency reported.

    South African authorities have denied the country is experiencing xenophobic attacks, preferring to call them "criminal acts."

    Abdirikaz Ali Osman, national secretary of the Somali Community Board of South Africa, disagrees.

    "To me it’s pure xenophobic attacks, which have been targeted [against] the foreign nationals who are living in the country – especially those who are having small, informal business in the townships and the informal settlements," Osman said. "So it’s obvious that it’s xenophobic and Afrophobic violence, actually."

    Osman is pleading with authorities to swiftly intervene before these foreign nationals, who have already lost their livelihood, lose their lives as well.

    Although the attacks are intensifying each day, the foreign nationals, especially those from Somali and Ethiopia, say they would rather die in South Africa than return to their countries of origin, where they are likely to be met with even more violence.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments page of 6
    April 21, 2015 10:55 AM
    it is the time we as a human race must start think positive towards other,Here we blame Zulus for this they have got that mentality of undermining other people,like here in South Africa they dont respect Sothos;Pedi;Vendas;Swazis;Tsonga/Shangaan ;Tswanas ;Xhosasthey don't regard us as a part of South Africa.So our fellow African You are not Alone Jah IS on OUR side.LETS UNITE AND TEACH AND TELL ZULUS DAYS HAS NUMBERED.
    In Response

    by: jacquelyn koka from: tanzania
    May 06, 2015 3:23 AM
    I think the african community has to interfear of what is going on there why mass killing how do they take it and why not to stop it

    by: Julio from: Maputo
    April 21, 2015 5:57 AM
    It is really frustrating to learn that those South Africans have forgotten the total commitment and engagement of the neighbouring countries to free them from humiliation of the post regime not long ago. Now they are returning the favour with machetes, spears and all sort of arms designed to inflict maximum pain.
    Ho South African! How could you be so savage!
    In Response

    by: Thabo from: Midrand
    April 22, 2015 2:59 AM
    If South Africans are here to comite racism to their fellow brothers and sisters from our neighboring countries,,,,,so my question is that are going to continue doing that to other people? Are you going to commit racism to to owns brothers and sisters well I say NO!!!! to xenophobia guys you should use your brains to think what about those South Africans who went to our neighboring countries for several reasons?????

    by: Tricia from: Ghana
    April 21, 2015 5:31 AM
    hmmmmmmmmmm we really need God to come to our aid..... because we can't understand what's happening now And God is the only one who has the final say

    by: peter from: pretoria
    April 20, 2015 10:24 AM
    South African government is to blame for opening borders without regulating the number of people entering into the country. In the apartheid era the peope who went exile in African countries were stationed in camps. The South African government must revise the policies and capture information of each and every foreign national entering into the country, both black n white.

    by: Angela Ange from: Paris
    April 20, 2015 2:44 AM
    We may all come up with different comments ...but none of them seem to resolve the matter. Shops are looted, cars are torched , human lives are lost , who will be held accountable of this mess. .At large extend every government his accountable of the mess caused with its territories. South African government was some how irresponsibly , could not be proactive to this situation. While his monarch , the Zulu , king had added fuel to the fire by asking foreigners to pack and leave , something should have been taken into consideration at the time of this irresponsible speech .

    by: Lilia from: Addis Ababa
    April 19, 2015 12:47 AM
    south Africa is a country with no freedom to work every government officials corrupted. don't expect help from them. just get back to ur country where u can work peacefully without a violence compare to what u face now
    In Response

    by: Tedros from: Ethiopia
    April 20, 2015 12:59 AM
    I agree just come to your country things are changed

    by: McBrain from: Namibia
    April 18, 2015 3:43 PM
    These people act as if the don't have families in other countries this sittuation sickens me

    by: cocern members of african from: africa countries
    April 18, 2015 7:13 AM
    In Response

    by: akuaba from: United States
    April 24, 2015 1:39 PM
    I wonder if the people who are participating in these attacks are being paid, agents provocateurs? This would be a way to distract and deter the energy that should be focused on the corrupt government of South Africa and on those who still control the economy.

    by: Nathan Hananda from: Harare
    April 18, 2015 5:20 AM
    It is only in South Africa where an illiterate person says a qualified Medical Doctor from a foreign current has come to take his/her job kkkkkk That's not only primitive and naïve but its also laughable

    by: Thokozane Sibiya from: Witbank
    April 17, 2015 8:16 PM
    I understand South Africans are frustrated about high unemployment rate and other internal issues but killing our own brothers and sisters wont solve any problem.. I think wakeup call for our goverment to realise that we have a big problem in South Africa.. I am a ZULU and I say NO to XENOPHOBIA
    Comments page of 6

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