‘Mixed feelings’ as Malawians leave PMB to return home

2015-04-22 00:00

MEN, women and children gathered anxiously outside the Mountain Rise Mosque yesterday morning, waiting to board buses that would take them home to Malawi.

Clutching suitcases and bedding, 130 Malawians crowded the parking lot, ­anxious to make their way home where they would be “safe”.

Ali Yusef (35) said he had been in South Africa for just over two years to start up a business, but the recent violence, including an attack on his shoe shop, had left him destitute, scared and wanting to return home.

“The police have told us all that they will escort us back to where we were living and make sure we are safe, but we cannot stay here. We do not feel safe. We all want to go home,” he said.

“I have been here in this country for over two years. I had many friends, but when the attacks on foreigners started, they all turned against me.”

Yusef said he had watched King Goodwill Zwelithini’s speech on Monday and was glad that the king had spoken out against xenophobia, but said it had not changed anything.

“I heard the speech and it was good, but it does not solve anything. We still do not feel safe so we must go home.”

Many waiting to board the bus — who had lived in Cinderella Park, East Street and other areas — said they had mixed feelings about leaving the country they had temporarily made their home.

With bags gathered at his feet, ­Dawood Saidi said he was both happy and sad to be leaving.

“I do not really want to leave, but it is better to go back than to be attacked,” he said.

Nizamia Islamic School teacher Mohammed Saeed was there to oversee the smooth running of the operation.

He said he, along with the Home Affairs Department, police and disaster management had organised the buses along with the Malawian Embassy to help the displaced Malawians get home.

“Everyone here has chosen to go home. Police have assured them that should they return to where they were living, they would be kept safe, but they have all said they want to return to ­Malawi,” he said.

Saeed said they had arranged two ­buses that would seat 65 people each, and these would leave as soon as they were loaded.

Malawian Embassy Social Services Vice Consul Ganizani Sionga said he believed foreigners would be safe in South Africa as the government had promised.

“The people you see here today had a choice and they chose to go.

“They will be just as safe here as they would be in Malawi because the South African government has promised it will be safe,” he said.

• chelsea.pieterse@witness.co.za

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