‘It’s just a few bad ones’

2015-03-03 14:00

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Covered in bandages, with tears in his eyes and moaning from the pain of the burn wounds, the Ethiopian who was burnt in Soweto on Thursday says there are good South Africans.

He asked for his name not to be mentioned as he tries to speak through the pain that is evident in his eyes. On Thursday afternoon, a group of people came to his shop in Braamfischerville and asked him to hand over money.

“Even when they don’t ask, I usually give them money so I can be safe,” he said in the hospital’s burn unit.

After they took his money, they also took his phone. Then he remembers one telling him that he should leave because some “k*k was about to happen”, but he couldn’t leave because he was alone in the shop and it was locked.

A petrol bomb was thrown, he saw smoke and the flames caught on his shirt. He said he cried and cried, but no helped as the flames ate his skin. “It was bad. It was very bad,” he stops and cries.

He asks to stop the interview – he is tired.

His story is one of the many the SA Police Service has had to deal with in a spate of xenophobic attacks this week in and around Johannesburg townships.

Police spokesperson Kay Makhubela said on Friday that nine people have been arrested and charged with public violence and attempted murder over the attack. They will appear in the Protea Magistrates’ Court tomorrow.

But this is little comfort for the Ethiopian man, who, for the first time since he moved to South Africa four years ago, has never feared for his life like he did on Thursday. But he still believes that not all citizens are bad.

“It’s just afewbad ones,” he said.

This was the first time he had been attacked – he had recently moved to Soweto from Honeydew, where he had never been treated badly.

“Everyone there was good to me. I had been told about this, but I have never seen it happen. It was good in Honeydew.

“I can’t go back there [Soweto]. They will kill me,” he said.

According to his neighbours and some residents, this all started at a meeting in Orlando. Hours after the meeting, a convoy of VW Citi Golfs was seen travelling through Braamfischerville, and foreign shop-owners were told to leave “or else”.

Police are not sure if those who threw the ­petrol bombs can be positively identified as the same people who were prowling the streets ­giving out warnings.

But the Ethiopian shop owner says he doesn’t know any of the people who stormed into his shop, or those who left him with third-degree burns on most of his upper body.

“I need to find my brother, that is what I need right now. They took my phone, so no one knows I’m here,” he said.

Makhubela said the police were still trying to track down the man’s family.

“We have some leads, but it seems as if they [his family] have moved.”

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