Panic and defiance as xenophobic violence threat hits Joburg

2015-04-15 14:03

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Foreigners in the Johannesburg city centre have hurriedly closed their shops after rumours started circulating that the violence and looting that happened in KwaZulu-Natal would spill over to Gauteng.

When City Press arrived at the business precinct between Bree, Rahima Moosa, Troye and Von Wielligh streets, also known as “Little Addis Ababa”, shop owners had closed up their stores, and were milling around.

Levin Mwenabiayi, a Congolese apparel merchant who had just finished shutting his roller door, said: “You can see what is happening here. There is tension, but we haven’t seen any movement yet. What is happening doesn’t look nice for the country. There is no country without foreigners; there are foreigners even in America.”

Mwenabiayi laid the blame for the situation at the government, saying it had failed to articulate its stance on foreigners.

“They need to teach the people that we have to work together as brothers,” he said, adding that he would leave the country if violence against foreign nationals escalated.

“I am not here because of hunger, but because of what happened in my country.”

He said he would assess the situation and reopen the shop if it turned out to be an empty threat.

But Chris Valentine, a Nigerian business owner in the area, was defiant, saying he was going nowhere.

“I am going nowhere, let them come. We are only here to boost the economy, this is our country. The mother of my daughter is South African, so if you tell me to go, who will look after them?”

Valentine said he would understand if South Africans were chasing away everyone, including white foreigners.

“We must look for the whites and chase them away. If they were chasing both the Africans and the Europeans, I would understand.”

He refused to close his shop, adding that he was not scared.

“This is Africa, and it’s our country. I am an African; where must I go?”

The CBD remained calm, with the police patrolling the streets.

An Eritrean businessman stood outside guarding his business. He opened the shop after a customer pleaded with him to do so.

“I am scared but what can I do. I have to make money. I have kids and I have a family.

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