Some Alex residents welcome army deployment

2015-04-21 20:04
(Thomas Hartleb, News24)

(Thomas Hartleb, News24)

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Johannesburg - Alexandra residents on Tuesday welcomed government's decision to deploy soldiers into xenophobic hot spots around the country, but some said this was only a temporary solution. 

"The soldiers will leave and this thing will start again," said a female hawker, who did not wish to be named. 

Attending to a customer, the woman, wearing a traditional pink Xitsonga headscarf, said it would be best if foreigners returned home.

"I don't feel right [about them being killed] but what can I do? I have no problem with them, but they should just go home. My biggest issue with them is that they don't pay tax for anything here," she said.

News24 visited a Somali-owned shop opposite the woman's vegetable stand. It sold items including chips, sweets and chocolates, washing powder, shoe polish, and toilet paper. 

One of the two men in the store, a chubby man with short hair, was at the rear of the packed shop, kneeling on a flattened cardboard box, praying. The other, who was tall and slender, sat at the door of the shop, reading the Qur’an. Both men did not want to be named.

The chubby man said that their area of Alexandra had not been affected by xenophobic attacks, but they were scared. 

"We are praying to be kept safe. The young people sometimes come here and say they'll kill us. You're a South African and you're a journalist, so maybe they will tell you why, because we don't know why they want to kill foreigners," he said. 

"Do you know why they kill us? What we do wrong, because all we do is sell sweets and Chappies," he said referring to the brand of chewing gum. 

"We are not working in government or big companies for them to say we are taking their job."  

He said he made an honest living and paid rent for his shop. 

Asked how he felt about soldiers being deployed to the area, he said: "The police is good. We go to them for safety when there is trouble, but the problem is always civilians, particularly the young people.” 


Addressing the media outside the Alexandra police station, Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said soldiers would be deployed to all volatile areas, including KwaZulu-Natal.  She was accompanied by Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba and Security Minister David Mahlobo.

At least seven people have been killed in xenophobic violence in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal in the past week.

A foreign couple was attacked in their Alexandra home on Monday night. They survived.

Gigaba announced that over 900 foreigners who had fled their homes in Phoenix and Chatsworth in Durban left the country on Monday after they asked to be repatriated. 

'I would rather die in Somlia'

Although returning to Somalia was not on the cards for the shop owner News24 spoke to, he said he would rather die on his home soil than in South Africa. 

"I would rather die in Somalia. Yes, there is politics problems, but here they pour petrol on you and kill you," he said. 

He acknowledged that not all South Africans were xenophobic. 

"People are not the same. Not all of them are bad. Only small number.” 

Alexandra resident Tshepiso Masike, 24, said the shop owner was new to the area and hardly spoke any English. 

Masike said he had no issues with foreigners and that the violence was caused by criminals. 

"You'll find that two guys want to rob a shop because they are criminals. They will target the foreigners because they know they always have money and the next thing other community members join in. Crime starts this whole thing," he said.

He welcomed news that the soldiers would be deployed to the area. 

As it became late afternoon, children returning home from school filled the streets. A large group of them played with a ball made out of plastics bags in a gated parking lot outside the police station. 

"We are going to be on SABC 1," they said excitedly as a news camera crew that had parked at the police station unpacked the equipment.

They continued playing as the crew disappeared into the narrow, busy streets. 

Standing outside a shop near the police station, Somalian Gadija Gemechu was asked whether he thought the worst was over. 

"We don't know. We are hoping so," he said.

Read more on:    sandf  |  johannesburg  |  crime  |  xenophobia

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