Landisa: I fled war-torn Burundi in 2006 to find safety in SA. And all I want to do now is leave

2019-11-08 09:23
Sandra Bahibitugu (32) at the Cape Town Central Methodist Church (supplied, Zacharia Mashele)

Sandra Bahibitugu (32) at the Cape Town Central Methodist Church (supplied, Zacharia Mashele)

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Sandra Bahibitugu and her two children were with the hundreds of refugees who were forcibly removed from the United Nations (UN) offices in Cape Town by police last Wednesday.  

She has now made her home in the Cape Town Central Methodist Church, waiting on authorities to address xenophobic violence in South Africa. 

Landisa spoke to Bahibitugu about why she decided to occupy the UN offices, her experience with South African police, and what her hope is for the future. 

Why did you decide to join the other immigrants in occupying the UN offices in Cape Town? 

On the TV you heard the citizens saying, "Why, as our government are you forcing us to live with these people? We don't want to live with these people. We are forced to live with them. We tried, but it doesn't work. These people, they need to go." 

That was what was happening in Pretoria in September, what the people were saying. That's why I will say I was very shocked that they said that.

The government is trying and is forcing us to stay with South Africans but they don't want us. We are staying in the community but they don't want us. 

They, the politicians, are also hypocrites because when they need to win the elections, when they need to win something from the citizens, they blame us. 

Our shops are looted, our jobs are taken, and our husbands are being killed there on the roads. So that's when I said that now enough is enough. 

Plus, I have two children. They've been denied at the public school. I had to take my children to a private school so they can study because they don't have a birth certificate. Those children, they were born here but it looks like they don't have rights at all. 

That's why I chose now to say, enough is enough. My children, they don't have a future. I'm still young, but I don't have a future. How am I gonna work for my children's sake? How even if I die today? How are my children going to have their future? 

No, I decided, let me join other refugees there at the sit-in at the UN offices and we can ask for the help of the UN so they can take us out of this country.

What happened when the police came to drag you out? 

I've been in my country Burundi where there was war. But when we came here to South Africa, we knew that we were safe. But after everything I saw with the brutality with the police: it was worse; it was worse. We ran for our lives. 

We'd been sitting there for 21 days when the police came. That building is full of glass there but we never scratched those glasses. 

Even at the time when they were coming, and we sat down and started chanting. We placed our children down with the women behind the children. The men stood behind us just so that we could show them that we want peace. 

Even when we saw that the police wanted to fight we said, "No, we are not here to fight. We are here for peace. Let's show them that we are here for peace."

I know there are some refugees, they don't want to come out of this country. It's fine. They can stay but those who are feeling like they are vulnerable. Help us. 

What is your hope for the future? 

When you have been travelling on the train, you are not safe in that transport; on the buses, we are not safe. They greet you on the train and if you don't answer in their language they take you out, they make you jump and die there. 

It's been happening a lot of times so what is the peace here? If we cannot work and we are being killed? 

That's why we need to come out and show ourselves. We must show the world what is happening. They must see so that they can do something.

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Read more on:    cape town  |  refugee  |  xenophobia  |  xenophobic

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