Attacks: king blamed

2015-04-09 00:00

FOREIGN nationals have laid the blame for xenophobic attacks taking place in Durban squarely at the feet of King Goodwill Zwelithini.

Zwelithini has been in the spotlight over comments he made in Pongola at the end of last month, when he is alleged to have said that foreigners should pack their bags and go home.

Over 300 foreigners of African descent attempted to march along Pixley ka Seme Street to the Durban City Hall yesterday, protesting against increased violence against foreign nationals throughout the city. Many believed the violence and looting stem from the king’s alleged comments.

But the march, which was authorised by the Metro police, was cancelled by the SAPS, who insisted they could not guarantee the safety of the protesters in the face of groups of locals who had gathered and called for them to leave the country.

The foreigners, however, attempted to continue with their protest despite ­police trying to disperse them using flashbangs, tear gas and a mounted water cannon.

Ifram Meskhele, of the Ethiopian Association in South Africa, said: “We came out in numbers to stop the killings, robbing and burning alive of foreign nationals who are being treated like chickens, yet the police have been shooting and beating us instead.”

Burundian national Hussein Shaban, who sits on the Durban-based Burundi executive council civic organisation, said the South African government must accept “that we are here to stay”.

“… The king has invited this violence,” he said.

“We are in the country legally. We have run from our countries where there is war to look for peace, but this is what we have got in return. South Africa doesn’t pay our rent, it doesn’t feed us. We run our own businesses, we make our own living. We are black, just like South Africans.”

Several foreigners called for intervention by the United Nations and blamed Zwelithini for the attacks.

“Today it is in Durban, tomorrow it is Pietermaritzburg and after that Johannesburg. This government is weak and said South Africans would soon be targeting Chinese and Indian nationals. We have no protection,” said Shaban.

Community Safety MEC Willies Mchunu, who arrived on the scene after visiting Isipingo, where there have been several xenophobic attacks in the last two weeks, told several foreign national leaders that he would meet with them.

“We are ready to listen to all your concerns. This seems to be a general problem. This is part of Africa. We are Africans, there is no issue there. We must stay together,” said Mchunu.

He allowed the remaining foreign groups to be peacefully escorted out of the city centre under police guard.


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