Refugees turn on their host

2015-12-18 10:46
Vital Nshinirimana, original elected leader of the group of foreign nationals staying at Hope Farm in Killarney Valley in Cato Ridge now fears for his life and those of the refugees’ hosts.

Vital Nshinirimana, original elected leader of the group of foreign nationals staying at Hope Farm in Killarney Valley in Cato Ridge now fears for his life and those of the refugees’ hosts. (Kailene Pillay, The Witness)

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THE good Samaritans who took onto their farm over 100 refugees displaced by this year’s xenophobic violence, now claim they have been threatened with murder by the same people they had set out to help.

Besides property being destroyed, the ­family who took in the immigrants have also been accused of not helping them to be ­relocated back home or to another country, driving a chasm between them.

Owners of Hope Farm in Cato Ridge, ­Andrew and Rae Wartnaby, were yesterday forced to evacuate their 10 children from their farm house in fear that they would be attacked or used as “bargaining tools”.

This, after a group of the foreign nationals they are housing on their farm attacked their home in the early hours of yesterday morning and threatened to kill Andrew.

The Wartnabys took in about 139 foreign nationals from countries such as Burundi and the Congo, including children, after they were arrested for squatting at the Chatsworth Sport Ground where they had been living during the height of the ­xenophobic violence in the province.

The Chatsworth ground had initially been a refugee camp run by the eThekwini Metro, but was closed down by the city after they deemed it was no longer needed.

The Wartnaby family set up tents and camps for the foreign nationals and provided food and clinic services to the group.

Two months ago, the refugees split into two groups over a leadership dispute and the breakaway group has since caused a lot of tension with the Wartnabys.

Ever since the group split, the breakaway group “always worked against us”, said ­Andrew. When The Witness arrived at Hope Farm yesterday morning, Public Order Police were still stationed on the farm.

Speaking to The Witness, the group’s ­original leader Vital Nshinirimana said that he fears for his life as the group have threatened to kill him and their hosts. “Our group do not feel safe. We are scared, but we don’t know what to do,” said Nshinirimana.

He said that the group fighting the Wartnaby’s and himself are not open to discussions and “just want to leave South Africa”.

“When we arrived, our lawyer advised that we should elect a leader who will represent the group when we discussing our future.

“I was elected as the leader but after three months of living here, some members of the group didn’t want me as their leader. They didn’t want a leader at all,” said ­Nshinirimana.

He said the group against them started ­attacking members of his group.

“Two months ago, they beat one of the men up while he was in the kitchen. That’s when I realised that the two groups needed to be separated and we split up.

“They had their own tents, kitchen and food. I tried to talk to them but they refused to listen because they believe I am selling them out to the lawyers and government and that Andrew is not helping them be placed in another country,” said Nshinirimana.

He said they have been in discussions with lawyers, the department of social services and other governmental departments in ­assisting them to be sent to another country to live. Nshinirimana added that the group, however “do not want to wait and listen to reason” and are choosing to be violent.

Andrew said members of the breakaway group this week cut and broke down the fence. “Then in the early hours of the morning, at around 2 am, they came smashing on my windows and doors and saying that they will kill me because I work for the government and I am not helping them.”

Andrew said that as he looked through a window, he saw the tent at the group’s camp engulfed in flames. “I immediately asked if everyone is okay but they kept shouting that tonight was my night and they will kill me. I haven’t slept since then,” said Andrew.

“When we took everyone in, we said we would try and help, which we have. But they feel like it has been too long and we let them down. I have asked that group to leave my farm, but they refuse to and to be honest, I don’t know what is going to happen. All I know is that I don’t want to be murdered tonight,” said Andrew.

No arrests were made by the time of going to print yesterday.

The breakaway group was approached by The Witness, but declined to speak.


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