Refugee’s story: ‘I’ll never forget horrible day’

2008-07-11 00:00

With tears in his eyes, Congolese refugee John Mukambilwa recounts his ordeal of being stabbed when he returned to his township after the recent spate of xenophobic attacks.

He was one of the hundreds that fled the Hammarsdale township of Mpumalanga after residents started beating foreigners who lived there.

The slight Mukambilwa, who spoke with the aid of an interpreter, fled to Durban when violence broke out in early June and sought shelter at a church in Glenwood, where he lived for two weeks.

With only the clothes on his back, Mukambilwa relied on the generosity of church volunteers, who provided food and blankets.

Once the violence had stopped, Mukambilwa was told to return to Mpumalanga, assured he would be safe. “When I went back to my home, the people were still angry. They started shouting and stabbed me twice in my back … I couldn’t understand why they were so angry with me. I knew these people, yet suddenly they hated me so much. I will never forget that horrible day.”

Mukambilwa spent a week in hospital.

“The people at the church told me that the xenophobia was over and that it was safe for us to go home. But the people still hate us foreigners,” he said.

He said he does want to return to Congo as his home is now in Durban. “Why can’t we all just live together? There is no need for all this violence and hatred,” he said.

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