Connect with us

Southern Africa

African migrants seek refuge amidst xenophobic attacks in South Africa

At least 12 people have been killed by a surge of anti-foreigner violence in the country’s financial capital last week

Published

on

African migrants seek refuge amidst xenophobic attacks in South Africa
People gather outside the D H Williams Hall in Johannesburg's Katlehong township, on September 09, 2019 where more than 500 people, mostly Mozambican nationals, are hosted after being displaced due to a new wave of anti-foreigner violence that hit South Africa's financial capital. -Michele Spatari / AFP

Beverlyn Nyamakwenje was fast asleep in her home in the east Johannesburg township of Katlehong when she was woken by gunshots.

Instructed by her panicked father, the 19-year old Zimbabwean grabbed a few belongings and fled with him to a police station for safety.

“We left our bags,” Nyamakwenje said. “We only took two minutes.”

Nyamakwenje is one of around 850 people who have taken refuge in halls set up for foreigners displaced by xenophobic violence in the Joburg region, a municipal spokesman said.

The door and windows of her little home have been smashed and the rooms wrecked. Everything inside has been stolen or burnt.

She and her father are holed up in Katlehong’s Tsolo community hall, alongside 250 Zimbabweans and Malawians.

More than 500 Mozambicans have been placed in a hall nearby.

READ: Nigeria plans to repatriate 600 citizens from South Africa

African migrants seek refuge amidst xenophobic attacks in South Africa
A woman holds a food plate at the Tsolo Community Hall in Johannesburg’s Katlehong township, on September 9, 2019, where around 250 people, mostly Zimbabwean and Malawian nationals, are hosted after being displaced due to a new wave of anti-foreigner violence that hit South Africa’s financial capital. (Photo by Michele Spatari / AFP)

“It happened so fast,” said Nyamakwenje on Monday, her fourth day at the shelter. “I only got one pair of shoes and two of my jeans.”

At least 12 people have been killed by a surge of anti-foreigner violence in the country’s financial capital last week.

South Africa is a major destination for economic migrants from neighbouring countries.

They have often borne the brunt of anger from locals frustrated over jobs. 

But the latest surge of attacks on businesses and homes has worried other African countries. Nigeria is flying hundreds of its citizens home. 

For now, Nyamakwenje sits on a plastic chair in the dimly-lit hallway, walls lined with blankets and hurriedly packed suitcases. Baby cries echoed around her. 

Outside, excited children clambered around municipal pick-up trucks. Women weaved each others hair. Boys kicked lazily at a football.

Most live in the area, but they are too frightened to return home.

Violence flared up again on Sunday, breaking the tentative calm that returned to Johannesburg by the end of last week.

“In the news, they are saying that the fighting was finished but…. they are fighting with us, even today,” said Poronkie, a 47-year old plumber from Zimbabwe afraid to give his full name.

African migrants seek refuge amidst xenophobic attacks in South Africa
People gather at the Tsolo Community Hall in Johannesburg’s Katlehong township, on September 9, 2019, where around 250 people, mostly Zimbabwean and Malawian nationals, are hosted after being displaced due to a new wave of anti-foreigner violence that hit South Africa’s financial capital. (Photo by Michele Spatari / AFP)

READ: Police arrests several shop looters in South Africa

Another two people were killed in the attacks on Sunday, with hundreds of shops and properties looted, and more than 600 people arrested.

“I am homeless,” Poronkie told reporters.

“They burnt everything that belonged to me. I thank God that I am still alive.”

‘We are not doing anything’-

Millions of economic migrants live in South Africa — the continent’s second-largest economy — though official numbers are unclear as most are undocumented.

In poor districts, many South Africans scapegoat foreigners for the limited progress made by the majority black population since apartheid ended in 1994.

“The South Africans don’t want us anymore and they are executing us very brutally,” said Joseph Mozorodze, 25, a Zimbabwean builder who has worked in Johannesburg for several years.

“We are not doing anything, we are just looking for jobs to earn money.”

Xenophobic attacks are not uncommon, especially for migrants working in low-skilled labour.

Municipal police spokesman William Ntladi told reporters he had dealt with similar situations during his career.

Anti-foreigner violence left 62 people dead in 2008, while seven were killed in attacks in Johannesburg and Durban in 2015.

“The number we have now is less than the previous one,” said Ntladi. “(In 2015) we had to use many municipal facilities to accomodate them.”

Community leaders were working to ease tensions between groups and help reintegrate the displaced, he said.

Aid organisations are providing meals and donations.

‘Worried about my life’ –

John Chirwa did not have high hopes.

Since the violence broke out, the 27-year-old Malawian security guard has been too nervous to leave his wife and newborn alone at night.

They sleep at the shelter while he goes to work.

African migrants seek refuge amidst xenophobic attacks in South Africa
A partially destroyed shop is seen in Johannesburg’s Malvern suburb, on September 09, 2019, after South Africa’s financial capital was hit by a new wave of night violence. (Photo by Michele Spatari / AFP)

“I was not feeling good, I couldn’t work as usual,” said Chirwa, picking at a plate of cornmeal and chicken before his night shift. 

“This violence is not just violence. It’s called xenophobia. People are getting killed.”

He toyed with the possibility of returning to his country, like many displaced.

“If I insist on staying maybe I’m going to lose my life,” said Harry Mrevo, also from Malawi, whose home was destroyed by mobs.

“So I’m waiting to go home if they provide transport.”

The embassies of Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique have liaised with the International Organization for Migration (OIM) to carry out voluntary repatriations.

Nigeria’s consul also announced plans to fly back around 600 citizens over the course of this week.

READ: South Africa vows to tackle xenophobic attacks against foreigners

At Tsolo, three suited Zimbabwean diplomats arrived in an SUV to take names and telephone numbers.

“I’m worried about my life, I’m still very young and I’m not going to school,” said Nyamakwenje, as her fellow citizens lined up to register with the embassy.

“Why did they do that?” she asked. “What exactly did we do wrong?” 

Copyright News Central

All rights reserved. This post and other digital content on this website may not be reproduced, published, broadcasted, rewritten or redistributed in whole or in part without prior express written permission from News Central.

New stories delivered to your phone

Click here to have news stories delivered to your phone or mail. You can also share your stories with us. Join our mailing list here.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Southern Africa

South Africa’s apex court rules spanking children as unconstitutional

The court upheld a 2017 ruling that sentenced a father for assaulting his 13-year-old son for watching a pornographic film

Published

on

South Africa's apex court rules spanking children as unconstitutional
The Constitutional Court in Johannesburg, South Africa. (File photo)

South Africa’s highest court on Wednesday upheld a ruling that spanking or corporal punishment of children at home was unconstitutional, saying the practices violate child rights.

In a much-awaited decision, the South African Constitutional Court backed a 2017 court ruling that sentenced a father for assaulting his 13-year-old son for watching a pornographic film. 

A religious freedom group had challenged that case, saying while it does not promote abuse, parents should have the right to raise their children according to their religious beliefs.

However, the nine constitutional judges unanimously ruled that spanking should be banned.

“The vulnerability of children, their rights to dignity and to have the paramountcy of their best interests upheld, as well as the availability of less restrictive means to achieve discipline, render moderate and reasonable chastisement unconstitutional,” they ruled.

The court banned corporal punishment in prison in 1995 and in schools in 2000.

Copyright News Central

All rights reserved. This post and other digital content on this website may not be reproduced, published, broadcasted, rewritten or redistributed in whole or in part without prior express written permission from News Central.

New stories delivered to your phone

Click here to have news stories delivered to your phone or mail. You can also share your stories with us. Join our mailing list here.

Continue Reading

Southern Africa

Traditional rulers demand customary rituals for burial of Robert Mugabe

Once Mugabe’s remains were returned to Zvimba on Monday, traditional leaders demanded the burial remain in line with local rites

Published

on

Traditional rulers demand customary rituals for burial of Robert Mugabe

As public wakes for late Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe have drawn to a close, traditional chiefs are demanding the body be buried according to spiritual traditions.

Those requests have been part of a dispute over the final burial of Mugabe, who died September 6 almost two years after a coup ended his increasingly autocratic 37-year rule.

He died during a medical trip to Singapore aged 95, leaving Zimbabweans torn over the legacy of a man who some still laud for his role as a colonial-era liberation hero. 

Mugabe’s burial has already been caught up in a dispute between his family — who wanted to bury him at his rural homestead Zvimba — and the government, which pushed for the body to rest at a national monument in the capital. 

They finally agreed Mugabe would be buried at the National Heroes Acre monument, in about 30 days, once a mausoleum was built for him.

But Mugabe was a non-practising chief in his homestead, and the burial feud has highlighted the spiritual beliefs, superstitions and rituals surrounding deaths of traditional leaders in parts of Zimbabwe.

Once Mugabe’s remains were returned to Zvimba on Monday, traditional leaders demanded the burial remain in line with local rites.

One of the Zvimba chiefs, Raphael Zvikaramba, said they had “so far” accepted the government’s proposal, but refused to comment on the details.

“(Zvimba) chiefs are buried in caves and the burial is secretly conducted at night,” Mugabe’s nephew Dominic Matibiri told reporters, standing outside his late uncle’s rural house.

‘Not just a president’ –  

A prominent Zimbabwean traditional healer, Benjamin Burombo Jnr, detailed the cultural beliefs and superstition surrounding the deaths and funerals of chiefs.

Traditional rulers demand customary rituals for burial of Robert Mugabe
A Catholic priest consoles a family members as the coffin of late former Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe lies in state at the Mugabe homestead in Kutama village, 80 km northwest of Harare, Zimbabwe, on September 16, 2019. (Photo by Zinyange Anthony / AFP)

“When a chief such as Mugabe dies, he is not a person that can be buried at Heroes Acre, that is forbidden. He should be buried in a cave,” Burombo told reporters.

“Mugabe was not just a president, but he was the embodiment of the spirit of Kaguvi,” he added, referring to one of Zimbabwe’s revered spirit mediums and pre-colonial nationalist leader.

When a chief died, often his body “would be dried”, his teeth “extracted” and his finger and toenails “ripped off”, Burombo said. 

He said the body would then be wrapped in skin hides before burial, and could even be swapped with a token such as a goat’s head to be buried instead.

“You can build that monument, but it doesn’t mean that is where the remains of Mugabe will be buried… it’s just for people to continue remembering him.”

Mugabe grew up Catholic and was educated by Jesuits. But according to Burombo, he still followed “traditional norms and practices” despite “going to church”.

Exaggerating the mystery –

Mugabe’s remains currently lie in his childhood village of Kutama, in Zvimba district, about 90 kilometres west of Harare.

During a mass held in his honour, Priest Emmanuel Ribeiro — a former acquaintance — said the former President “was secretive and private” about his beliefs.

Traditional rulers demand customary rituals for burial of Robert Mugabe
Zimbabwe’s former first lady Grace Mugabe (2L) follows proceedings during a body viewing ceremony of late former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe hosted at Murombedzi Growth Point, about 107 km northwest of Harare, Zimbabwe, on September 16, 2019, as people have been accorded the opportunity to view Mugabe’s body a week after his death. – (Photo by Jekesai NJIKIZANA / AFP)

Retired sociology professor Claude Mararike told reporters the secrecy surrounding the funerals of traditional chiefs had “long vanished”.

He said that in the past, a death would only be revealed days or even weeks after burial.

“Very few people knew where the chief was buried,” Mararike said. “There were caves where a particular clan normally buried their own chiefs.”

But Mararike said that long-standing political tensions between the family and government “might have precipitated” the discord and mystery surrounding the funeral.

Mugabe’s family are still bitter over the role current President Emmerson Mnangagwa played in his ouster.

A former guerrilla who fought alongside Mugabe against colonial forces, Mnangagwa was fired as first Vice President in 2017. Mugabe had branded him a “traitor”.

Soon after, protesters took to the streets and military officers pressured Mugabe to step down in what was widely seen as a struggle between Mnangagwa’s faction and loyalists to Mugabe’s wife Grace inside the ruling ZANU-PF party. 

“There obviously was quite a lot of anger among the Zvimba people on how their son was removed from office,” said Mararike.

“The late President Mugabe might have said something before he died,” he added referring to how he wanted to be buried, “but what he really said we don’t know”.

Copyright News Central

All rights reserved. This post and other digital content on this website may not be reproduced, published, broadcasted, rewritten or redistributed in whole or in part without prior express written permission from News Central.

New stories delivered to your phone

Click here to have news stories delivered to your phone or mail. You can also share your stories with us. Join our mailing list here.

Continue Reading

Southern Africa

South Africa apologises to Nigeria after xenophobic attacks

Buhari and Ramaphosa are expected to meet at a state visit in South Africa next month

Published

on

South Africa apologises to Nigeria after xenophobic attacks

A South African envoy expressed the country’s “sincerest apologies” to Nigeria on Monday, after a wave of anti-migrant attacks swept through Johannesburg and surrounding cities in recent weeks, fuelling diplomatic tensions. 

A meeting with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari in the capital Abuja was held to convey President Cyril Ramaphosa’s “sincere apologies about the incident that has recently transpired in South Africa,” the special envoy, Jeff Radebe, told reporters. 

READ: Police arrests several shop looters in South Africa

“The incident does not represent what we stand for,” he said, adding that South African police would “leave no stone unturned, that those involved must be brought to book.”

In a statement after the meeting, Nigeria’s presidency said “President Buhari responded to profuse apologies from the South African president, pledging that relationship between the two countries will be solidified.” 

Johannesburg and surrounding areas were rocked by a series of deadly attacks on foreigners in recent weeks, with many directed against Nigerian-owned businesses and properties.

South Africa apologises to Nigeria after xenophobic attacks

At least 12 people were killed in the violence that left hundreds of shops destroyed.

READ: Nigeria ramps up security to protect South African businesses

No Nigerians were killed according to South African authorities but the violence led to condemnation across Africa, particularly in Nigeria, fuelling diplomatic tensions between the continent’s two leading economies.

The violence also prompted reprisal attacks against South African firms in Nigeria and the temporary closing of South Africa’s diplomatic missions in Lagos and Abuja.

Last week, almost 200 Nigerian migrants were repatriated back to Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, following the unrest. 

At least 400 more are expected to return out of some 100,000 Nigerians estimated by the government to reside in South Africa.   

Buhari and Ramaphosa are expected to meet at a state visit in South Africa next month.

READ: 189 Nigerians repatriated from South Africa after xenophobic attacks

Copyright News Central

All rights reserved. This post and other digital content on this website may not be reproduced, published, broadcasted, rewritten or redistributed in whole or in part without prior express written permission from News Central.

New stories delivered to your phone

Click here to have news stories delivered to your phone or mail. You can also share your stories with us. Join our mailing list here.

Continue Reading

Trending