4 March 2016

South Africa: Nigerians Expelled From Western Cape Town

Chibuzo Osondu (green shirt) and members of Pine Valley community in Wolseley confront each other on Wednesday.

Fourteen people flee Wolseley after crowd marches against them, loots their shops, and accuses them of murder and drug-dealing.

By Wednesday evening all fourteen Nigerians living in Wolseley had left the small town. Wolseley is about 45km north of Worcester.

The Nigerians were harassed out of their homes in Pine Valley township by community members who accused them of selling drugs to teenagers and murdering a South African.

Seven people had already left the area on Tuesday when community members marched against them and threatened them.

On Wednesday, I met the remaining seven people hidden in town. With police assistance, the seven managed to collect some of their belongings. Most said they had not eaten anything since the previous day. On Tuesday night they had slept outside after they failed to get any assistance from police.

"For me this is not my first time to see this community against us. I came to Pine Valley in 2010 and took over running a tavern which was almost closing. The community was up against me alleging that I had no right nor the proper requirements of running such a business. They ordered me to close," says Chibuzo Osondu, 32, who stood next to his wife, a Lesotho national.

Most days Osondu collects his children from creche but on Tuesday his wife did. On Wednesday the child did not attend the creche.

This is the second time Osondu has been forced to leave his home in South Africa. He says in 2010 he was chased out of Nyanga by South Africans.

Thomas Okeh, 34, stays in Tulbagh, not far from Wolseley. He had come to assist his countrymen find an alternative place to stay. "I am witnessing such rude behaviour for the second time from this community. [Once] they took over a tavern run by a Nigerian and police did not do anything to stop this," he said.

"I believe anyone who is staying in this country legally should be treated with respect. Now that the community is ordering the Nigerians to leave today where do they think these people will get accommodation in less than 24 hours?" he asked.

The Nigerians would not say where they were going to go out of fear of being victimised there too.

Later in the day, police escorted Osondu to his house. A few hundred people had gathered outside. They were shouting, "Go, go now. Go away today!".

Chriss Basson a Pine Valley community leaders said, "We for a long time have noticed these Nigerians selling drugs to teenagers in the area and have reported this to the police but they do not take us seriously. We as a community are against anyone selling drugs in our community."

Asked why the community gave the Nigerians short notice Basson replied,"These Nigerians make a lot of money here so they can afford to stay anyway."

Another South African who did not wish to be named said, "I have nothing against my fellow African nationals staying together with us in the same community but when they sell drugs to teenagers then it becomes a problem. I think these guys should stop this."

Osondu managed to load part of his belongings with the help of some community members who did not want to speak to the media.

Osondu who runs a phone shop, claims he lost over R30,000 in cash, a pair of shoes and other clothes. His younger brother who worked as a doorman at a tavern run by a South African said he lost his job and over R20,000. "I can not stand this type of treatment. It is better I go back to Nigeria," said Chinedu Osondu.

"I really don't know what to do at the moment. We are now homeless. It is very difficulty finding a place to stay," said Reginald Samuel who most of the time was phoning friends begging for accommodation. He is married to a South African woman.

"I am not sure how the community will treat my wife. She is currently in the Eastern Cape so I asked her to stay there till I find accommodation," he said.

Later the Nigerians left in cars to undisclosed places for overnight accommodation.

Community members accused the Nigerians of beating a South African to death. Neither the South Africans nor the Nigerians were prepared to talk in detail about the case.

According to SAPS, detectives are investigating a case of murder in which a South African citizen was murdered by a Nigerian national. The accused was arrested and appeared in Wolseley Magistrates' Court on Tuesday on a charge of murder. He is remanded in custody until 8 March for a bail application.

On Tuesday, SAPS stated that shops were looted in Pine Valley after a protest near the court dispersed. No one was arrested.

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