23 July 2010

South Africa: Foreigners Want Army to Protect Them From Xenophobia

A community of foreigners in South Africa have called for the country's army to remain in the informal settlement where they live, until xenophobic tensions rising across the country begin to diminish.

The community in Kya Sands in Northern Johannesburg say they want the army to remain in the township for another month to ensure their safety, following attacks on both foreigners and locals earlier this week. The army moved into the Kya Sands settlement on Tuesday after the attacks which saw tuck shops and shacks being plundered on Sunday and Monday. At least five people were injured.

According to South Africa's 'The Times' newspaper, people are too frightened to live in the area without the army to protect them. A team from the newspaper spent a night in the township this week and spoke to Zimbabwean Tshepo Sithole, whose shack was damaged in an attack on Sunday night. He told the newspaper that "the minute they (the army) leave, we will be attacked. We are scared, but we feel a bit safe in the presence of the army. The police are useless. People attack in their presence," he said.

The informal town of Kya Sands is home to thousands of Zimbabweans and Mozambicans. On Wednesday night, more than 30 army, police, and Johannesburg metro police vehicles, including armoured personnel carriers and ambulances, were reportedly parked on the only stretch of tarred road outside the settlement. The Times said that teams of heavily armed soldiers, SAPS and metro police officers patrolled the area and searched anyone who aroused their suspicions.

Foreigners in South Africa have been living in fear for several weeks after rumoured threats that xenophobic violence would be unleashed after the football World Cup came to an end. The tournament ended almost two weeks ago and so far, a few sporadic incidents of violence have been reported. Fear however continues to drive many foreigners from their South African homes and in Zimbabwe, the Civil Protection Unit has put up temporary shelters in Beitbridge for hundreds of Zimbabweans fleeing the xenophobic threats.

Meanwhile, a friendly soccer match taking place in Johannesburg this weekend will be attempting to give xenophobia a red card. The event, which will see South Africa's Jomo Cosmos taking on Zimbabwe's Highlanders, is being hailed as an "Ubuntu Derby", aiming to bring together all Africans in Africa. People from all walks of life have been invited to celebrate their cultural richness, diversity, and most importantly to embrace their differences through soccer, drama, poetry music and traditional dances. The event will also be graced by political and religious leaders in South Africa.

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