He and a group could not go to the camp for displaced foreign nationals as they were searching for their wives and children whom they lost contact with when the violent attacks erupted in central Durban this past week. Abdul is still frantically searching for his three children – two sons and a daughter aged between eight and ten years of age – who attend one of the schools in central Durban.
“I’ve risked my life, searching for my wife and children, and I don’t know where they are. I left my wife in the morning to go to work, and my children went to school. I haven’t heard from them ever since we got chased.”
He says when the knobkierrie-wielding mob came to attack them at their shops, their children were at school, and wives at home alone. Abdul says he and some other shop owners had to flee, leaving behind everything, to save their lives.
He alleged that when they ran to the police station on Broad Street, the gate was closed as they approached. He felt the South African police let them down by not offering sufficient protecting.
“The police closed the gate, and didn’t want us to enter. We had no one to help us from the mob,” he told the African News Agency (ANA).
“All we want is to get to our families, whether they are dead or alive,” said Abdul.
Mohammed Mohammed from Ethopia, also a shop owner, added: “Fearing for my life, I just closed my shop, and took my goods to safety. I will wait for the situation to calm down, and then maybe consider opening up again. But for now my safety is my priority.”
On Tuesday, central Durban resembled a war zone, as foreigners’ shops were looted, and some people necklaced (putting a tyre on a persons neck then using petrol to set it alight) and burnt to death in full view of large crowds of people. Some foreign nationals hiding in a block of flats retaliated by throwing rocks at the mob, damaging taxis that were at a taxi rank, further infuriating the irate mob of locals.
The xenophobic attacks had started at Isiphingo, south of Durban, and spread to other townships like Umlazi and KwaMashu, where a Somali family was reportedly burnt alive inside a locked house.
The ANC has slammed the attacks on foreigners, labeling it as ‘barbaric’.
KwaZulu-Natal police spokesperson, Colonel Jay Naicker said police officers were on high alert.
“The police are still monitoring the situation,” said Naicker. Since the Friday attacks, five people had died.
Most shops were still closed for business in central Durban and surrounding areas. Shops in Johannesburg run by foreign nationals were also not operating amid sporadic clashes in the CBD.