KZN foreigners forced out

2008-05-21 00:00

THE Inkatha Freedom Party has criticised “irresponsible” comments made by eThekwini ANC chairman, and MEC for Safety and Security, Bheki Cele after violent xenophobic attacks around hostels in Durban yesterday.

Speaking on several radio stations, Cele accused IFP supporters of inciting violence against foreign nationals living in the Umbilo area.

He said the hostels are IFP strongholds and their supporters were responsible for the attacks.

While political parties point fingers at each other, hundreds of refugees have packed their belongings and have started to make their way home.

Chinese and Pakistani businessmen have also closed their shops and factories, fearing that they will be attacked in the xenophobic frenzy that is sweeping the country.

The tension comes after a mob from the Dalton hostel in Umbilo gathered outside the Khalisa building in Melbourne Street where about 60 Zimbabweans, Nigerians and Malawians live.

The mob threw bottles and stones at the building and demanded that the foreigners leave on Tuesday night.

Umbilo police spokesman Captain John Lazarus said police arrived and “stabilised” the situation. “We told the residents to remain inside the building until the mob dispersed. The crowd was very angry, but eventually left the area around midnight,” he said.

It is believed that the mob also attacked patrons of a Nigerian-owned tavern near the hostels.

Some of the residents packed their belongings and left the building during the night. Some people said they have no place to go, but cannot remain in the area.

“I cannot live here anymore. Our safety cannot be guaranteed so I’m packing my things to leave. I would rather die in my own land than in South Africa,” said a Zimbabwean living near the hostel.

Yesterday, a large police contingent was on stand-by outside the hostel while the roads leading to it were cordoned off by Metro police.

Premier S’bu Ndebele visited the area to assess the situation.

There are fears that more attacks could break out. Foreigners have been advised by police that they should leave the area immediately.

It is also believed that two Congolese men were attacked by taxi drivers at the Clermont taxi rank.

At an IFP press briefing held to address the allegations made by Cele, KZN provincial chairman Mntomuhle Khawula said Cele is trying to use the attacks to score political points by insinuating the IFP is responsible. He said it has become a trend for Cele to behave in an “unacceptable manner”.

Khawula said he would not comment directly on Cele’s comments as they were not directed towards him and he would not be drawn into an “immature” row with Cele.

He confirmed that there was an IFP meeting in the area on Tuesday, but denied that members had lashed out at foreigners. “If we find that any one of our members had been involved … they will appear before our disciplinary committee.”

Meanwhile a community safety and peace-building task team has been established in Durban to deal with the xenophobic attacks.

The team is made up of Diakonia Council of Churches, the Office of the Mayor, police and several religious groups.

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