No one seems to know . . .

2008-05-19 00:00

The dead man lay covered in a sheet on a dusty road running through the Ramaphosa squatter camp in Reiger Park on the East Rand yesterday.

Nearby a crowd had gathered. Some of them smirked and laughed as they pointed at the body. No one seemed to know where he was from. Some said Maputo, others Harare.

Most didn’t seem to care.

His head had been smashed in with a rock. His face was caked with mud. Blood pooled underneath him. His clothes were torn and scorched where his killers had tried to set him alight. A broken beer bottle lay near his head.

By the time the police got to him, rigor mortis had begun to set in and his arms were raised as if he was defending himself.

Police say he was the fourth person to die in Reiger Park since Sunday, when a man was torched in front of press photographers.

Clashes continued yesterday. So did the attacks on immigrants, "Shangaans" and just about anyone that the thugs — armed with axes, hammers, knives, poles and even spears — felt was an easy enough target.

In the morning, photographers stumbled across a badly injured man lying behind a shack.

The skin had been flayed off his back, his clothes were torn, his teeth were smashed and blood soaked his trousers. His clothes had been scorched in an unsucessful attempt to set him alight.

The photographers called the police who, after assembling sufficient back-up, rescued him and carried him out of the squatter camp on a red mattress. He drifted in an out of consciousness, occasionally moaning or trying to speak through smashed lips.

Later, a shack was ablaze. The fire spread quickly. A column of flame and black smoke rose above the settlement. No one knows who lit it. Some said teenage boys. Others said the resident of the shack was Mozambican. Again, no one really knew.

Keith Sondyazi is a local artist. The wall of his shack is painted with the image of a boy praying and the words: "Love and Peace". His neighbour’s shack was torched yesterday.

"This is no way of solving a problem," he said. "My neighbour has been living here for 13 years. He’s from Mozambique."

Sondyazi believes the victims of the violence are being targeted because people are frustrated about the way they are forced to live and are lashing out.

"People don’t have insight. They don’t care. The problem is, people are angry and they can’t control their anger. It is about the conditions here. It is not natural for people to live this way," he said, gesturing at the sewage running through the muddy street.

Nearby, a number of shacks had been torched. "The Zulus did this, they came here for the Shangaans and the foreigners."

In another squatter camp, police fired rubber bullets to disperse a crowd of men armed with an array of crude weaponry.

"Panzi, Shangaan, panzi!" they chanted. "Down with the Shangaans, down!"

As the sun fell, there were further clashes and police made arrests. But across Gauteng, people prepared for another night of violence.

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