Bishop Paul Verryn has received threats against himself and foreign nationals living at the Central Methodist Church in Johannesburg.
The cleric told reporters: “There had been some direct threats.”
Verryn said a man approached him at a traffic light on the corner of Republic and William Nicol roads in northern Johannesburg on Sunday and told him:
“We want you to know if it (xenophobic violence) starts, we will be coming to the church.”
Verryn said it was clear that this was meant as a threat.
He had also been told that people plotted, during an event celebrating Youth Day on June 16, to attack his house in Soweto.
Last night, foreigners at the church said they had been threatened by metro police officers.
“The metro police had come (to the church) and said they would be coming for the people,” said Verryn, whose church is known to be a haven for homeless foreign nationals.
As he left the church to go home, he confronted metro officers sitting in a vehicle outside. The officers told him they were there to clamp down on illegal street trading.
Verryn was speaking to the media in Johannesburg alongside Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and several other civil society groups.
The MDC’s spokesperson in South Africa, Sibanengi Dube, said the party had received more than 200 calls from distressed Zimbabweans fearing
“Since Sunday, we’ve been receiving calls ... I received 207 calls from members of the party who say they can’t go home,” said Dube.
The calls were from all corners of the country, but most of them came from the Western Cape.
“I received calls of individuals who claimed to have been beaten up,” said Dube.
In the Western Cape, attacks and shop lootings were reported in Daveyton, Cape Town, Philippi, Nyanga, Khayelitsha, Pearl East, Wellington, Mbekweni and Klapmuts.
Dube expressed “limited faith” in the police.
“Scores of youths are reportedly looting and threatening foreigners in full view of police officers,” said Dube.
He called for foreign nationals fearing attacks to form security groups and not walk around alone.
The MDC called on the South African government to set up special courts to deal with xenophobic threats.
“(The government) should not wait for blood to be spilled in the townships and squatter camps but must put under lock and key all those who are making threats,” said Dube.
“We are advising members to report threats and attacks to the MDC and we will also report the incidents to the police on behalf of the members.”
Any foreign national in need of help can contact the MDC on 073?137?9175 or 076?323?3723.