Landisa: Why South Africa is like Somalia for refugees right now

2019-11-08 09:27
Ali Musa Ali (40) at the Central Cape Town Methodist Church (supplied, Zacharia Mashele)

Ali Musa Ali (40) at the Central Cape Town Methodist Church (supplied, Zacharia Mashele)

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Forty-year-old Ali Masala from Somalia was one of the hundreds of refugees who were forcibly removed from the United Nations (UN) offices in Cape Town by police last week.  

He now lives in the Cape Town Central Methodist Church where refugees are calling on authorities to address xenophobic violence in South Africa.

Landisa spoke to Masala about why he came to South Africa, and what he hoped to achieve occupying the UN offices. 

Why did you come to South Africa, and how has your experience been? 

When I  left my country I decided to come to South Africa to survive because when I was living in my country there was a war in 2008. That's why I came straight to South Africa. 

Everyone knows what is happening in Somalia. I haven't seen my country in more than ten years and I'd love to go back but you see that nothing there has changed. If I leave here my country is still fighting our people and killing each other.

When I arrived here in 2008 it was there was rampant xenophobia. Everywhere I went I was fighting. They used to beat us. When you were on the train, when you were on the bus, they insulted you.

In South Africa, it is the same as in our country right now. South Africa now does whatever it wants, you see? If the people shoot you, the police arrest you while you are bleeding. 

That is why I decided to occupy the United Nations offices. I want them to take me. It doesn't matter to which country they can take me. 

What did you hope to achieve by occupying the UN offices?  

When I left my country and decided to come to South Africa I also had a hope to have a future in this country. 

I wanted to go visit my brother in Rwanda in December so I started saving, but then they took my everything this year. That's why I don't have a cent. I was going to come and ask the UN to help. I don't have anything to survive, even right now. I don't even have R1. They took all my products and shot me. I have a bullet in my head, here. And I have one in my stomach. 

They are always attacking us refugees: when you are on the train, on the bus. When you are walking they can attack you straight away. Anywhere in South Africa. 

Last year they shot me in Limpopo. This year they took my shop in Philippi. I don't know where to go.

And hopefully the world can see right now what is going on in South Africa, as we used to hide our problems but we don't want to do that anymore. We want to show the world what is going on in South Africa. All of us, we are suffering. We lost our property in this country. 

That is why we came here. Because we all feel the same. That is what we come to ask, to leave this country.

Do you have a story to share? Send it to and include your contact details and a photo. Visit Landisa for more stories. 

Read more on:    refugee  |  xenophobia

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