‘We don’t sleep here at night’ – Mozambican nationals about attacks in Tembisa

‘We don’t sleep here at night’ – Mozambican nationals about attacks in Tembisa

Looters take items from an alleged foreign-owned shop during a riot in the Johannesburg suburb of Turffontein on September 2, 2019. Picture: Michele Spatari / AFP

Vusimuzi informal settlement is peaceful during the day, but changes at dusk as mobs ransack shops and damage properties.

Fear has tightened its grip on Vusimuzi informal settlement in Tembisa, as attacks on foreign nationals continue.

On Friday, all spaza shops owned by foreign nationals remained shut. Only a few makeshift stalls run by locals were operating. Residents had to go to the nearby mall to get goods they were unable to acquire at the makeshift stalls.

Some residents spoke to News24 on condition of anonymity, fearing they might be attacked later.

According to them, the informal settlement was peaceful during the day but changed at dusk as mobs ransacked shops and damaged properties.

Many foreign nationals have since fled, leaving their wares behind to be looted.

Nowhere to go

Two Mozambican nationals, Joseph Mazwai and Alfred Sirindza who live in the suburb, told News24 their stay in the area was hanging by a thread.

“We are ready to run away. The question is, where we are going to run to? We only know this place in Tembisa and our lives are here. We are aware that locals are going into properties looking for foreigners asking for their ID books. If you don’t have them, they chase you away and loot your property,” said Mazwai.

The two men, who run a hair salon from a shack in the area, said they did not possess legal documents to be in the country.

“We don’t spend nights at home, we sleep elsewhere where we feel safe, not in our shack. We have been told that locals won’t stop protesting until they chase all foreigners out of Vusimuzi. Fortunately, no foreigner has been killed, but that is not a guarantee that our lives would be spared,” said Sirindza.

Local resident Elizabeth Williams, who rented property to a foreign national to run a spaza shop, said she and other landlords in the area were given stern warnings by their neighbours not to continue renting their properties to foreigners. The property was looted on September 2.

“We have been threatened that should we allow foreigners back, our homes will be set alight. I am not prepared to lose my house because of foreigners.”

She claimed her previous tenants had taken advantage of her good nature and not paid their rent.

“What the locals did to them was wrong but to me it was a blessing in disguise. I have had enough of tenants who are foreigners. I have long waited for them to go away from my yard. My daughter is going to take over from them and start her own business or I will rent it out to locals. Foreigners must go and not come back,” shouted Williams.

Another local resident, Focus Khuzwayo, blamed the government for not manning all ports of entry.

He accused Zimbabweans of stealing jobs meant for locals and allowing them to be used by employers as cheap labour.

“Our companies here don’t hire us South Africans anymore, they prefer foreigners especially Zimbabweans. When we ask for employment, we are told we don’t have experience. As a truck driver, I am forced to renew my PDP [professional driving permit] every two months and yet Zimbabweans are not asked to do that.

“They are driving trucks with fake papers and many don’t possess PDPs. Zimbabweans must go back home except for Mozambicans who are here for good purposes,” said Khuzwayo.

Another resident, Robert Khoza, condemned the attacks and looting of shops owned by foreign nationals.

Khoza said those behind the attacks were criminals who should be arrested.

“This is very wrong. We have Home Affairs officials who are employed to determine if foreigners are legal or illegal here… What people are doing is against the law. I am calling on the government to deport all who are illegal here. Anyone who wants to come into our country must possess legal documents,” he added.

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