Xenophobia: Alex on a knife-edge

2011-10-22 21:53

Alexandra in Johannesburg was still on a knife-edge last night as a deadline loomed for foreign nationals to vacate RDP houses they had allegedly bought fraudulently.

Despite calls for calm made yesterday at a local stadium by the Alexandra Bonafides Movement (Bonafides), the driving force behind the evictions, City Press has learnt that a “roll-call” would be held this morning to determine whether foreign nationals have left their RDP houses.

Vincent Ndima, a member of Bonafides, said: “Tomorrow (Sunday) morning we will make sure that people are out of the houses. They must all be out. I don’t know what is going to happen but people are going to force them out of those houses.”

Foreigners received a notice on Monday telling them to vacate houses at “your own free will, without being pushed like animals or aliens”.

Ndima said Bonafides is “not promoting bloodshed, but only pushing for people to get things in a rightful manner”.

Bonafides leader Duma Kulashe tried to calm about 600 disgruntled residents who gathered at sports grounds in the township yesterday morning and called off a proposed march to the RDP houses to evict the foreigners.

He said a court order obtained by Bonafides on Friday only allowed for the meeting and not a march. Kulashe is facing arrest after a charge was laid against him for allegedly inciting violence.

Fuming residents, however, keep demanding action.

Dan Bovu, a Johannesburg Housing Mayoral Committee member, arrived at about midday to calm the crowd, assuring residents that their complaints would be addressed with a range of meetings starting tomorrow.

Another meeting would be held on Saturday to give residents feedback on the progress the housing department has made.

“From Monday the leadership of Alexandra (the ARP) will start doing their jobs,” Bovu said, referring to the Alexandra Renewal Project, a government agency charged with delivering houses and issuing subsidies in Alexandra.

However, the crowd dispersed only when two local soccer teams arrived to play a scheduled match.

“My daughter applied for an RDP house in 1996 and all of them – children to great-grandchildren – are still living with me in a one-bedroom shack. We are sick and tired of this,” 63-year-old Mildred Thys said.

Mohammad Abduraman has been in South Africa for a month, having joined his elder brother, who has been in Alexandra for three months.

The 20-year-old said he lived in the township’s Extension 9 and received the notice to foreigners on Monday.

Abduraman appears not to be worried about the notice.

His landlord, retired driver Morena Mashego, says he needs the R600 a month rent his Ethiopian tenants pay.

“We don’t work so we need these guys,” Mashego said.

He lives with three of his five children and runs an informal phone shop next to his tenant’s shop.

“It’s hard getting even R20 from the phones,” said Mashego, who survives on a government pension.

Zimbabwean vegetable hawker Phyllis Sibanda was not worried about the threats.

“I work for a South African so if they come I’ll tell my boss to take over the stand.”

On Friday, MEC of housing Humphrey Mmemezi said South Africans selling their RDP houses to foreigners were the real problem.

He said they were only allowed to sell their RDP houses after eight years and when they had been given title deeds.

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