The last wave of xenophobic attacks in April saw a number of foreign nationals uprooted from their homes. Many took refuge in camps erected by the government.
The Mail & Guardian visited Marathon, a squatter camp outside Germiston, and found that most of the foreign nationals had moved back to the community. We interviewed the residents – both local and foreign nationals – to get to the root causes of the attacks and how they feel about reintegration.
Here we feature the interviews: a South African man explains why locals chased out foreign nationals; a Zimbabwean woman with two small children speaks about her experience; a Zimbabwean national talks about the reasons behind the attacks and a Somali businessperson has sought protection from a local businessperson.
“Jahman” (39) from Limpopo
South African “Jahman” told the M&G that one of the reasons behind the xenophobic attacks were employers’ preference for hiring foreign rather than local labour. He said there was a perception that South Africans were lazy and demanded more money. This fostered anger against foreign nationals which led to them being chased out of the squatter camp.
Zimbabwean national Nombuso Mhlongo (29)
Mhlongo and her husband fled with their two children during the attacks. She was targeted because she runs a spaza shop. Mhlongo said they had no other place to live, and that she will keep returning to the same shack. For her, Marathon is the only place she can make enough money to raise her children.
Vincent Chareka (36) from Zimbabwe
Chareka moved to South Africa in 1998. He said the government needed to make a plan for the many “unemployed and unqualified” youth who are said to have started the xenophobic attacks. He said poverty, widespread unemployment and illiteracy among young South Africans who lived in Marathon were some of the reasons behind the attacks.
Somali business owner Yidi Asombro
Asombro has lived in South Africa since 2006 and has been attacked three times. He told the M&G he has lost many brothers and sisters and he is tired of apologies from the government. This year he finally signed a deal with a local businessperson, Mbuyiseni Ndlovu, to protect him and his shop from future attacks. He and other Somali business owners have agreed to pay Ndlovu R400 a month in protection fees.