Rosettenville on Fire: Is it xenophobia or fighting crime?

By Drum Digital
13 February 2017

Is the violence taking place in Rosettenville an act of xenophobia or a response to crime in the community?

When DRUM visits Rosettenville, it is relatively quiet and residents go about their business as if nothing happened on Saturday.

The truth is, 10 buildings were torched in the community suspected to be drug and prostitution dens.

DRUM spoke to Nobelungu Mkhize (48) who lives in the area with her husband and two daughters.

“It makes me angry because my daughters are exposed to the drugs and prostitution and this neighbourhood is not safe at all,” she adds.

“I think it’s a good thing that residents are taking matters into their own hands because the police aren’t doing anything to help us.”

Rosettenville: Picture/Ayanda Sitole

Nobelungu witnessed the drama unfold and saw protesters marching from house to house, demanding that the police lock up the perpetrators.

Another resident, Steven Laurence, a Nigerian national who lives at a block of flats called Capessa Court says he received a call from his wife to urgently come home when protesters were marching outside their gate.

“I told her to take my daughter and lie on the ground,” he says.

When he made it home, he found police shooting rubber bullets to disperse protesters.

Later that evening, protesters returned to his street and torched a neighbour’s house believed to be run by drug dealers and two flats in his complex believed to be a brothel.


Steven says living with his wife and daughter where a brothel is operating down the corridor is challenging.

“Unfortunately for us this is the only place that we can afford to stay,” he says. “I can’t move to the townships because I am a foreigner and I can’t afford to live in an expensive suburb.”

A few blocks away from his flat, Max Izuma, runs a bottle store which was looted and set on fire.

Rosettenville: Picture/Max Izuma

“I came to live in South Africa because the living conditions are better here than in Nigeria, but I am operating a legitimate business,” he says.

“This was an act of xenophobia, I have lost millions now and I have to start from scratch,” he says.

Max says he employed South Africans at his bar and people from the entire community enjoyed hanging out there.

“I don’t understand why my bar was targeted, I have contacted the police on several occasions to patrol our street and keep the customers safe.  I was attacked because I’m Nigerian,” he adds.


Today, a high-level government delegation led by Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba visited areas in Johannesburg which are populated by immigrants. Yeoville, Mayfair and Rosettenville have been put on their radar.

This comes after a raid was concluded by Johannesburg Mayor, Herman Mashaba, in Rosettenville last week.

Tshwete says they have met with Mashaba to address the issue of crime and illegal immigrants in the city of Johannesburg, however, Mashaba was not present at today’s walkabout as he was attending the Mayoral budget Lekgotla in Magaliesburg, Johannesburg.

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