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Persistent Durban xenophobia and Operation Fiela, 20 May

Speakers: China Ngubane, Gabriel Hertis, Patrick Bond
Date: Wednesday, 20 May 2015
Time: 12:30-14:00
Venue: CCS Seminar Room 602, 6th Floor, MTB Tower, Howard College, University of KwaZulu-Natal

Xenophobia has snuck back, even if the society is numbed or unaware:
• A Zambian hawker was murdered at Warwick Junction last week, much like Mozambican national Emmanuel Sithole who, in Alexandra township, who was knived over a stolen cigarette.
• An Ethiopian was firebombed in his tuck shop at Kennedy Road on Friday.
• Congolese were attacked at the International Convention Centre on the weekend.
• Chatsworth and other refugee sites remain without sufficient emergency shelter, educational and healthcare support.
• And the state's Operation Fiela is the most sweeping xenophobic threat of all, with its specific targeting of "illegal immigrants" who account for more than 40% of 4000 arrests in recent days.

What can be done to assess whether the return of immigrants to their residential communities is working? What steps can be taken to longer term solutions?

Ngubane is the coordinator of the Dennis Brutus Community Scholars; Hertis is a founder of the African Solidarity Network (and a Rwandan refugee); and Bond is CCS director.


There have been attacks on Ethiopians and one (congolese-born) Zambian..
I met the brother of the Zambian today. The victim came to South Africa
for the first time only two months ago.

He was a street hawker at the market, outside Chicken Licken. Two people
(street kids) went to buy stuff from him and did not pay. He told them
that he was working for someone and that the boss would demand the
money. They reached into their pockets and pulled knives instead of
money and stabbed him to death. The family wants to take the body home
but do not have money and there will be the need for paperwork.

Fight spills into streets of Durban

Bongani Hans (The Mercury) 19 May 2015

IT WAS hoped that an international boxing match staged in Durban at the weekend would reconcile South Africans and foreigners after the recent xenophobic attacks, but instead things turned ugly when locals and foreigners attacked each other. .

The world title elimination fight between Cato Ridge’s Thabiso Mchunu and JohannesburgCongolese boxer Ilunga Makabu took place at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre on Saturday.

A congolese promoter in Durban, Shako Kuminga, said that before the match he had been approached by Congolese diplomats to encourage his country’s citizens to go the ICC to watch, because it would be a perfect opportunity for reconciliation.

Kuminga said he was disappointed when instead, a fight broke out in the crowd.
“That was contrary to what we were hoping to achieve, which was enjoying the match together after the xenophobic attacks.

But the supporters behaved otherwise,” said the promoter.

The trouble reportedly started after Makabu knocked out Mchunu in the 11th round.

“As Mchunu lay facing down people rushed to the ring, and all of a sudden there was shouting and chairs were flying,” said Kuminga.

He said when he was having supper with local and international dignitaries, he received a call to say people were attacking each other outside the ICC.

Mchunu’s father, Alex Mchunu, who was in the front row, confirmed the chaos. He said he thought South Africans were annoyed when they saw the Congolese celebrating.

“These guys were mocking the South Africans. Then chaos erupted and I was kicked in the back. I was hit by a chair,” said Alex Mchunu.
Congolese national Idi Assumani said he and two friends had been walking home from the ICC when they were confronted by a group of South Africans.

“These guys came to us shouting something about the boxing. I tried to escape, but they chased after me. I was hit with a brick and fell to the ground and they were all over, kicking me while I was on the ground,” he said.

Assumani said his attackers left him bleeding from a head injury when a metro police van appeared.

The police took him to Addington where he received Hospital stitches.

Kuminga said the Congolese in Durban were grateful to the South African government for quelling the xenophobic violence in the city.
“When we arrived at the ICC before the match I could feel the spirit of reconciliation. People were singing and dancing together,” said Kuminga.

Police spokesman Thulani Zwane confirmed Assumani’s attack.

“We are investigating a case of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm which happened at Dr Pixley Kaseme Road (West Street) in Durban on May 16, 2015. No arrest has been made,” said Zwane.

Durban arson attack prompts manhunt
Kerushun Pillay and Mbuso Mkhize Saturday 16 May 2015

Police have launched a manhunt after a tuck shop owned by a foreign national was attacked on Friday morning, in Clare Estate, in Durban.

Unknown people allegedly threw a petrol bomb through a window burning the premises and all the goods inside.

Although the re-integration process of the foreign nationals back into communities seems to be running smoothly in many parts of the Ethekweni Metro, there have been sporadic attacks rearing their ugly heads in some parts of Durban.

The area was plagued with xenophobic violence in April.

Ethiopian national, Ephraim Tesfaye, says his tuck shop in Clare Estate was attacked by unknown people on Friday morning.

“I got a call from my brother, he was telling me that a fire had erupted inside the shop. He said we were being attacked. So suddenly we drove and when we arrived, the shop was in fire, everything burned to ash inside the shop. My brother survived because he managed to open the door and then save his life. When I arrived he was out of the shop.”

Mayor James Nxumalo has condemned the attack, calling it "pure criminality"
Ethekwini Mayor, James Nxumalo, has condemned the attacks but maintains it is an isolated incident saying the re-integration of foreign nationals back to the communities has been successful thus far.

He says the number of people being housed at the Chatsworth camp, south of Durban, has drastically decreased from about 500 to about 240 in the last week as people are being re-integrated back into their respective communities.

He has called the attack a "pure criminality" and has called on the police to apprehend the perpetrators.

“We are actually disappointed that there was an incident that was reported in Sydemham where a shop owned by a foreign national was actually bombed. But I must say that we condemn it. We hope that the police will investigate these people who are responsible for that and they must be charged because, as we have agreed, that the situation has now normalised and therefore there are no other reports that indicate there are attacks against foreign nationals. It is just this one isolated incident.”

Police are searching for the individuals responsible for the attack. “At this stage, no arrests have taken place, however a case of arson is under investigation,” says KwaZulu Natal police spokesperson Jay Naicker.

Police have urged anyone who might have information about the incident to come forward. Click below to watch a video

Ethiopian injured in Durban xenophobic attack
Cyril Mnguni Friday 15 May 2015

There has been extensive damage to the shop belonging to the Ethopian national and his brother.(REUTERS)

An Ethiopian national has sustained serious injuries at his brother's tuck shop at Kennedy Road in Sydenham, west of Durban, after their shop was set alight.

The owner Ephrem Tesfaye who is also leading all Ethiopians living in KwaZulu-Natal says all the groceries, and equipment, including fridges were destroyed in the fire.

He believes the fire was caused by a petrol bomb.

Tesfaye says seven tuck shops owned by Ethiopians in various areas of the province have been attacked, looted and destroyed during the violent xenophobic attacks in recent weeks.

Tesfaye could not control tears of sadness and frustration. He says he has lost thousands in investment. He has since opened a case of arson with the South African Police Services.

He says his brother's condition is still critical in one of the Durban's hospitals.

“Dallas Tuck shop belongs to me and my brother. About half-past one we got a call and from town and when we reached the place the fire was already set and the shop was burning. Doors outside the shop never burned but internally all the stuff, fridges, everything was destroyed by fire. Everything we have got here in the shop amounts to R180 000 invested. We are really devastated and distressed at the loss of all hopes to do business even to live here, it is very sad.”

Meanwhile, an angry community in the area says they will hold a meeting to discuss the incident. They have promised to defend foreign nationals living in the area saying they are helpful to the community.

It is not clear whether the attack is related to the recent xenophobic attacks and police were not available for comment.

Police arrest 11 after foreign-owned shops are burnt
Natasha Marrian 19 May 2015

ELEVEN people were arrested in the Free State overnight after three foreign-owned shops were burnt down and 27 were looted.

Free State police could not confirm whether the incidents, which took place in Petrus Steyn, were xenophobic.

Spokesman Mmako Mophiring said on Tuesday that residents began looting and burning down the foreign-owned shops at about 7pm on Monday night. By 5am, the situation had calmed down.

Police are currently monitoring the situation.
The country was hit by xenophobic attacks in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal in April, which sparked outrage among other African nations. It was preceded by attacks on foreign-owned shops, mainly in Gauteng, at the beginning of the year.

The government has since launched the controversial Operation Fiela in a bid to prevent a resurgence of the violence against foreign nationals.

The much-maligned operation is aimed at eradicating criminal elements believed to be a catalyst for xenophobic violence. However, critics have called it a crackdown on foreigners in townships and city centres, after reports that hundreds of migrants were arrested in each raid.

A raid at Johannesburg central Methodist Church two weeks ago — which saw the arrest of hundreds of foreigners — prompted Lawyers For Human Rights to obtain a court order that allowed them access to detained foreigners to provide them with legal advice.

However, despite their requests that the government reconsider the operation, government leaders insist that Operation Fiela is not going anywhere.

During a briefing on Sunday, the interministerial committee on migration said 1,650 of the 3,914 people arrested during Operation Fiela were undocumented foreign nationals, while the remaining 2,264 were South African citizens arrested for a number of serious crimes.

Law enforcement and security personnel made arrests for various crimes, including possession of drugs, explosives and illegal firearms and smuggling precious metals.

Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe said the committee rejected the notion that Operation Fiela targeted foreigners.

"We categorically and publicly denounce that Operation Fiela is targeting foreign nationals. Government will never authorise actions that are contrary to our constitution and the laws of the country," Mr Radebe said.

With Khulekani Magubane

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