Foreigners attacked in PMB

2008-05-26 00:00

REPORTS of sporadic attacks on foreign nationals have surfaced in Pietermaritzburg. The past weekend saw property set alight and a Zimbabwean national leaving Imbali, covered in blood.

In the early hours of Sunday morning, a shack in the city centre occupied by a Congolese man was burnt down. The occupant was threatened earlier in the day and told to get out of SA.

That evening he moved out of the shack behind the Solid Rock Global Ministries church complex in Retief Street — and found it gutted the next morning. He had spent the night in the church building with other refugees.

According to the refugees, they could smell burning, but were too scared to come out of the building. They only emerged when they heard the fire engine siren.

“We saw about 20 people standing on the concrete wall separating the complex and Kismet Hotel. They started shouting, ‘Kwerekwere, go back to your country!’,” said refugee Didier Matindi.

The Imbali attack happened on Saturday, when a Zimbabwean known only as Ebel was stabbed by a young man in his rented room after he refused to hand over his cellphone and money.

An eyewitness said Ebel was preparing to leave SA because he had been intimidated previously and was selling some of his possessions. A group of young men went to his room and pretended to be interested in buying his things, but once inside they produced knives and held him up.

“When he refused, one of them stabbed him on the head. Ebel grabbed a knife and stabbed one of them in the shoulder and they all ran away after neighbours were alerted …” said the witness.

He said Ebel refused to go to a clinic. He collected his belongings and boarded a taxi.

“We accompanied him to the city, where he bought a hat to cover his injured head. He boarded a taxi saying he was going to Durban to get transport to Malawi,” said the witness.

Yesterday, a Malawian vendor was attacked in Slatter Street near the Imbali taxi rank, apparently by taxi drivers and conductors. They pointed to an elbow and asked him what it was and when he didn’t know the obscure Zulu word, they then called him “ikwerekwere” before assaulting and robbing him.

A Congolese woman said their South African friends have turned against them. “I run a salon in Pietermaritz Street, and next to it there is a coffee shop where I have been always buying a cup of coffee in the morning. But on Friday when I went to buy one, the waiter told me there is no coffee for me and I must leave …”

Another Congolese woman said that in Impendle on Friday she and a friend going to sell clothes were insulted and told to leave the country.

“These people were like friends to us. They welcomed us with open arms … But suddenly they turned against us,” said another woman.

Another woman said that yesterday morning a man came to her complex looking for a house to rent. When she told the man that there was no room, the man said: “You kwerekwere have a place to stay while I don’t”.

bhans@witness.co.za

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