Friday 9 July 2010

African immigrants in South Africa fear attacks after World Cup

Foreign nationals living in South Africa are being threatened that violence against immigrants will restart shortly after the World Cup.

DE DORNS, SOUTH AFRICA REUTERS - Foreign nationals living in South Africa say they fear for their safety as the World Cup comes to a close, after receiving xenophobic threats of violence.
In De Dorns, rows of tents house refugees - mostly Zimbabweans - who sought safety after a breakout of violence last November in South Africa's Western Cape. Many say they are too scared to return to their homeland but also face a new wave of threats in South Africa.

"After the World Cup, they are promising that 'We are going to kill you and if we don't kill you, we will do something very bad. So, it's better if you go back to your homes now - that the World Cup is in progress. After the World Cup, we are going to do something very terrible.' So, many of the people here have gone but we can't go. Where do we go?" said Evah Chibukira, a Zimbabwean refugee staying in the camp.

South Africa's government on Thursday (July 8) played down concerns that locals will turn on poor African migrants competing for scarce jobs in the continent's largest economy when the curtain falls on the soccer World Cup.

But migrants from African states and non-governmental groups said foreigners have been leaving due to renewed threats of xenophobic violence in the country where attacks in 2008 left 62 migrants dead and around 100,000 homeless.

In recent months, the government has encouraged the community to vacate the sports field and move back to their homes.

There are still more than 200 refugees staying in the area, including Chakauya Musakawa and his wife Moleen.

Musakawa says he would like to move back to their old home so they can work again, but with newborn twins, they have to think of safety first.

"The government wants to move us out of this place but I don't. If they can come and facilitate an agreement between us and the community people, we can go to the location freely. But if they can't facilitate that then we will stay here," he said.

The South African army has been deployed in areas around Cape Town, following an upsurge in threats towards foreigners but rights groups say the government needs a long-term solution.

At the Scalabrini Centre in Cape Town - a non-government organisation (NGO) which helps refugees - director Miranda Madikane said the source of the problem was poverty.

"It's a lot about poverty and I think if those root causes were addressed, we wouldn't be dealing with the xenophobic threats," she said.

South Africa's liberal immigration and refugee policies have made it a haven for Africans looking for work in the country's mines, farms and homes, where they battle for jobs in the country with 25 percent unemployment.

The number of migrants are estimated to be about five million, almost equal to the white population in a total population of about 49 million.

Assaults have the potential to dampen investor sentiment and embarrass President Jacob Zuma's government, which has pledged to reduce violence in a country whose reputation as Africa's economic engine has been undercut by its high crime rate.