Durban's day of peace turns into chaos

2015-04-16 17:19
(Joe Stolley, News24)

(Joe Stolley, News24)

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WATCH: Police clash with locals in Durban CBD

2015-04-16 15:47

Police have chased anti-peace protesters in Durban CBD amidst chaos as locals and foreigners clash. Watch. WATCH

Durban - The Durban CBD was a chaotic scene of stun grenades, rubber bullets, tear gas, and walls of police on Thursday afternoon, even though a peace march had just been held to end xenophobic attacks.

People sneezed and their eyes burned as police formed human chains in the streets with their commander shouting ''hold the line, hold the line'' as they cleared about 500 agitated people from the immediate area.

While the peace march wound down at the city hall, pockets of protesters grew in the city's Dr Pixley KaSeme, Anton Lembede,  Joseph Mduli  and Monty Naicker streets, with police trying to break them up with tear gas, a human chain and a water cannon.

They ignored boos from the crowd and at one point, helped a lone motorist get away from the fray.

A woman wailed as water cannon on a large police truck pushed people away from shops in the CBD, most of which were closed.

Famous retail brands formed the background to police chasing a group through a taxi rank in Anton Lembede Street, and a Burundian national, Moses Sefumama, had to be rescued from a crowd by metro police.

People outside Shoprite sneezed as the wind blew the tear gas down Dr Pixley KaSeme street.

In places mounted metro police towered over people, forcing them to move.

In contrast, KwaZulu-Natal Premier Senzo Mchunu said outside the city hall at the peace march, "Today is a very important day, not only in KwaZulu-Natal, but in South Africa. Today we made our stand known throughout the continent and the world."

The provincial government organised the march after five people died, including a teenager in clashes between police, locals and foreigners since Friday.

Mchunu said, "Our enemy as Africans is poverty, illiteracy, unemployment and diseases that are ravaging out people. Our enemy is not our nationalities. That is not our enemy, we are one. We are here after a long march to say, 'No to xenophobia, we must respect one another, we must respect foreign nationals, this is a march for peace," he said to loud cheers.

‘Peace and stability’

He said the government wanted stability in the province and did not want any bloodshed.

"We want peace and stability. We are here to pledge our solidarity with the Nigerian government. We condemn Boko Haram. We stand together with the Kenyan government and condemn the violence. We are in solidarity with all our African brothers," said Mchunu.

He said: "We pledge for peace. We are aware of a few people in this province who go around looting, selling drugs to our people and breaking the laws of the land. We will support all law enforcement agencies so that our people are safe.

''We acknowledge that in the past few days our image has been tarnished. We say to the people of KwaZulu-Natal, stand up and defend KwaZulu-Natal and the property of KwaZulu-Natal."

 He said that in any democracy there are rights and responsibility.

 "You have a responsibility to stop the attacks and violent act against foreign nationals. Let us unite. To foreign nationals, we don't want any violence against you. You must also not carry fire arms or get involved in crime. We don't want to barricade any areas in this city. Please let's respect one another," said Mchunu.

One person shouted: "We are not voting in 2016. The foreigners will vote"

At the same time, President Jacob Zuma in Parliament said no amount of frustration or anger could ever justify the attacks on foreign nationals and the looting of their shops.

"We condemn the violence in the strongest possible terms. The attacks violate all the values that South Africa embodies, especially the respect for human life, human rights, human dignity and ubuntu," he said.

"Our country stands firmly against all intolerances such as racism, xenophobia, homophobia and sexism."

National police commissioner Riah Phiyega said this week 800 officers had been deployed to stop the violence.

Meanwhile, eyes were starting to turn to Johannesburg where xenophobia was being reported in the south east of the city and frightened Somali families went to the Primrose police station for protection.

Read more on:    police  |  senzo mchunu  |  durban  |  crime  |  xenophobia

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