Local refugee speaks out against xenophobia

2008-06-03 00:00

African foreigners living in Pietermaritzburg have spoken out about the xenophobic experiences they have endured at the hands of their South African neighbours.

Tichaona Machinga from Zimbabwe’s capital of Harare had been renting a room in Willowfontein since September last year. But on May 27, during the looting and bloody violence in Gauteng and other parts of the country, he was forced to leave the area as locals made it clear to him that his stay in the area was over.

He moved to a warehouse next to the city railway station, to live with other Zimbabweans.

Two of his countrymen moved in with him, running away from Imbali for the same reason.

Machinga was never physically abused, but words and threats became too severe for him to remain in Willowfontein.

He said that ever since he arrived in the area, both adults and children treated him with contempt.

“This hatred against foreigners is deep-seated in South Africa.

“If even the young children could call me kwerekwere and tell me to go back to my country it means that this hatred has been planted in the children by the elders,” said Machinga.

Machinga has a refugee status in South Africa.

Ever since he arrived in the area, Machinga has never been welcomed by South Africans.

He said he would only socialise with two other Zimbabweans who also live in the area.

He said he was always insulted and humiliated on his way to a bus stop or to the shops.

Boarding a taxi to and from the city was one of his worst nightmares. Commuters stopped conversations to talk about him.

Machinga said he will never move back to Willowfontein.

“Anywhere in the world if you are a foreigner you walk the extra mile for low income. South Africans are being recruited in Europe for the same reason,” he said.

bhans@witness.co.za

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