Three stabbed in drunken brawl

2010-08-03 00:00

REFUGEES living in Pietermaritzburg are organising a meeting to address concerns about xenophobia in the city following an attack on three Ethiopians at the weekend.

They claim South Africans are calling them kwerekweres, making perpetual attacks on them and telling them to go back to their countries.

Three Ethiopians were stabbed on Saturday evening in what seemed to be an alcohol-fuelled brawl involving South Africans and foreign nationals living in Pietermaritz Street.

A South African man has told the police that he was attacked by the foreigners who fought him over his girlfriend, but the foreigners claim the attack was a xenophobic incident.

Yosef Chafe told The Witness that a number of drunken South African men living in Pietermaritz Street tried to break into a car belonging to one of the foreigners.

When they tried to stop the men, they said, a South African woman also living in area allegedly produced a knife and started inciting the robbers to fight them.

“She started calling us kwerekweres, saying that we don’t belong here,” Chafe said.

“They came with broken beer bottle and she had a knife and they tried to stab foreigners,” said Chafe.

He claims that this is how the three Ethiopians got stabbed.

Speaking from his hospital bed, one of the victims, Desta Abare, told The Witness in a mixture of broken Zulu and English that he had gone with a friend to buy some food from a nearby cafe.

He said he noticed a commotion as he walked towards the crowd, but thought that since the police were present the situation was under control.

However, he said, his friend was suddenly attacked and stabbed in the shoulder.

Abare was stabbed in the back of his neck.

While he remembers police trying to chase after the culprits, Abare said he could not recall much after being stabbed.

He said he fled from his country because of conflict there.

He told The Witness that he had lost some of his relatives and came to South Africa in 2006 seeking a life of peace.

Chafe claimed that even though the police took the knife carried by the woman, no arrests were made.

“Every weekend they fight with us. That lady is always starting fights. This time three people were stabbed. Who is next? What if someone dies and police don’t do anything?” he asked.

ER24 paramedics who attended to the scene described the crowd as large and angry.

According to ER24’s Vanessa Jackson, the injured men initially refused medical treatment, wanting to return to the angry mob and demand that their rights be recognised.

“After the paramedics spoke to the men, they reluctantly agreed to be taken to hospital …”said Jackson.

“One of the Ethiopian men said a fight had started in the community when his brother’s car had been vandalised for no apparent reason.”

Police spokesperson Warrant Officer Joey Jeevan said police found a lot of people under the influence of alcohol. As a result, no statements could be taken or arrests made.

However, she added that a South African man opened a case, telling police that he was attacked by the foreigners in a row over his girlfriend.

Jeevan advised the stabbed men to immediately open a case. She said that whenever there are conflicting statements, police conduct thorough investigations and then forward the matter to the public prosecutor for a decision on whom to prosecute.

PASTOR Samson Matabaro, a Burundi national who has been working closely with victimised refugees, described the situation in Pietermaritz Street as volatile and warned that things could get out of hand if police continue not to act.

“I think people immediately assume that just because you are a refugee, you are here illegally. But the fact is many of the people have papers to be here. Many of them would rather be in their own countries.

“But they are here looking for peace.”

Matabaro said such incidents are reported to the police, but added that it doesn’t look like they are being taken seriously.

Leaders of the different nationalities represented in the area have invited the police, the Home Affairs Department and the uMgungundlovu District Municipality to a meeting tomorrow. The meeting will be held at the Pacsa office at 170 Hoosen Haffejee Street.

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