Survivors of attacks on foreign-nationals in Soweto say the violence meted out on their community was not xenophobic in nature.
Hundreds of foreigners have fled various parts of Soweto after mobs attacked their stores and property in a week of violence in the township south of Johannesburg.
Somalis, Ethiopians, Bangladeshis and Pakistanis were among those targeted, prompting fears of a new wave of xenophobia creeping into the city.
But foreign nationals disagree.
“They rob us, beat us and they kill us, but we know they don’t hate us,” said Dereje Solomon, an Ethiopian refugee.
The South African presidency has been quick to act, sending in a garrison of police officers and community workers to protect the rights and property of foreigners.
“We want to demonstrate that we won’t let the mistakes of the past repeat themselves,” Minister of Police Nkosinathi Nhleko said in a statement.
But foreign nationals living in makeshift tents and in the open on the street after losing their homes in Soweto are adamant they don’t want “any special treatment”.
“We don’t deserve to be treated like humans. We are aliens after all,” said Fatima Anwar, 24, from Somalia.
– Featured illustration: By Nathi Ngubane.