Mireille de Villiers and Thobile Mlangeni
2 minute read
24 Apr 2015
3:30 pm

Mpumalanga free of xenophobic attacks

Mireille de Villiers and Thobile Mlangeni

Mpumalanga has been free of the violence while parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng have been rocked by xenophobic attacks.

FILE PICTURE: Thousands march against the recent wave of xenophobic attacks in South Africa through the streets of Johannesburg CBD on April 23, 2015. Several thousand demonstrators marched through central Johannesburg to protest against a spate of deadly attacks on immigrants, after further raids by the authorities on suspected gang hideouts. Watched by police, crowds sang songs denouncing xenophobia and carried banners that read "We are all Africans" as migrant workers crowded balconies, shouting their support. AFP PHOTO/GIANLUIGI GUERCIA AFP/AFP/GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/STF /GG/JH/RMA

The closest effects were felt across the border in Mozambique when the attacks sparked protest action against South African-registered vehicles, which resulted in the temporary closure of the Lebombo border post last Friday.

Peace had been restored on the other side of the border. Fernando Lima, editor of Maputo-based publication Savannah, said the reaction to the well-documented murder of Mozambican Emmanuel Sithole in Alexandria over the weekend was angry, but no organisation had called for renewed protests.

The province has been quiet this time around after the spate of violence in 2008, where 62 foreign nationals were killed across the country. Experts put the cause for xenophobic attacks down to misconceptions that foreign nationals took South Africans’ jobs, driving up unemployment, and caused crime.

Mpumalanga is no exception, with an unemployment rate of 28.1% and youth unemployment of 37.6%, according to Statistics South Africa. Yet foreigners residing in Mbombela are not fearful for their safety.

Duma Dladla, 37, first came to South Africa from Mozambique in 1994. He stays in Pienaar with his wife and three children. “Life is good. Nobody has shown any negativity towards us.” He sells guavas from a shopping cart in the city centre. “Foreigners are here to make money. We are not taking other people’s jobs, but creating our own.”

He added he was not worried that violence would break out, but conceded: “We can’t predict what will happen in life.”

Dladla said speaking Swati along with his native Tsonga has helped him to assimilate into the community.

Another Mozambican national Julius Matsinhe, who has been here for 11 years, sells cellphone accessories and belts on the streets to support his family in Xai Xai. He attributes the violence elsewhere to prejudice against foreigners.

“We are not here to take people’s jobs. You can’t get hired without a South African ID,” he pointed out and added some of his Mozambican counterparts engaged in petty theft, targeting their countrymen too, something honest workers tried to dissuade.

Selling wares on the CBD sidewalk, she says some of her countrymen have probably gone over to violence because “people are too lazy to think and come up with ideas of how to make their own money”.

Caxton News Service