Citizen.Speak.Amplify

Isipingo xenophobia: “I came to South Africa looking for peace; clearly, I chose the wrong country”

When xenophobic violence erupted in Isipingo and surrounding areas last week, African foreigners were chased out of the suburbs and sought refuge at the police station. There were too many of them to accommodate, so a camp was set up at Isipingo Beach Sports ground. Qiniso Mbili visited the camp and spoke to RAPHAEL FIKIRI, a mechanic from the DRC.

I come from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and I am a mechanic. I live in Malukazi, a rural area just outside Isipingo, and I work in Isipingo. On Monday morning at around 10am I was at my garage in Isipingo when I decided to go get food at a nearby restaurant. Just when I went outside the garage I saw a mob of about 25 angry men and women.

Before I could make sense of what was happening they started throwing stones at me and one of them said, “Bamba!” (Catch him). One of the stones hit me on the head and the others landed on my clients’ cars, damaging the body and breaking windows. They were armed with knobkerries, big sticks, broken bottles and one even had a gun, which he fired once in the air. The mob looked murderous and I knew I had to run for my life.

I closed the garage door and ran for my life, leaving the garage unlocked. Some people entered the garage and started looting and vandalising my clients’ cars while others started attacking the other foreigners that work near my garage. So now there was a group of victims running away from the attackers. We couldn’t trust anyone else in town for refuge so we decided to run to the police station.

In the evening, tired of sitting at the police station, some of us were considering going back to our places, but the police advised against this as there had been reports that the violence had spread to Malukazi, which is where most of us live. At around 8pm the same day, two of the people who I share my house with in Malukazi arrived at the police station, accompanied by hordes of other victims coming to take refuge.

They told me how the violence had spiked there and that our house had been looted. Apparently I had lost everything in my house too. I have nothing right now, not even my passport which I would have risked going back to retrieve because I really want to go back to the DRC.

I am surprised by the amount of hate that South Africans have for other Africans. Back home in Congo, my neighbour is South African; he has been there for years, since I was a teenager. There are many other South Africans in Congo, working and living comfortably there – things like these never happen to them. In my country we don’t even have a name for foreigners, but here they call us amakwerekwere.

I have lost everything now besides the clothes on my back and my phone. My mother called on me Tuesday morning (31 March) crying and begging me to come back home to the DRC. I don’t know how she came to know of the violence, because I did not tell her about it. In 2004 when I came to South Africa, my family was strongly against it. Now that I really want to go home, I can’t, because I have lost everything.

This is not my first time being a victim of xenophobia. When the xenophobic violence spread throughout the country in 2008, I was the first male victim in Isipingo. The most sickening element of this violence is the ignorance shown by the xenophobes. Not all of us come to South Africa because we are poor in our own countries. I love my home country and I lived a comfortable life there until the political wars. I came to South Africa looking for peace; clearly, I chose the wrong country.

Living in a tent like this and eating the kind of food that they serve here is inhumane considering that I am fully able to work and provide for my own self. I don’t know what is going to happen to us next, but I want to go back to my home country right now.

– As told to Qiniso Mbili; Featured image: by Qiniso Mbili.
4 Comments
  1. Alphonse says

    our host, South Africa doesn’t have any respect to human being life. Let, the one who chose to be born South African be the first. One to kill an other one who made the wrong choice to be born foreigner to him. South Africa. Didn’t your mother teach you that respect of other people’s life is the beginning of wisdom? , South Africa, you claim to know God, but do you remember that Jesus said we should love our fellows like ourselves. It doesn’t matter the reasons why you think you are right but I think none them give you the right to decide on who deceive to live and who deserves to day, you are behaving. When you came on her, South Africa. You didn’t even know who you were. In your earlier age, you were oppressed, I thought. You could not what what human being life means be cause of what you have passed through, behold, the former oppressed, who takes now the place of the oppressed and rejoices into the bleeding of his brother. May you live forever. What is that that can’t be solved between people. That only death can be the solution. You remind me A French philosopher who said, the having kills the being. may God bless you South Africa. For having taken pleasure

    1. Alphonse says

      In killing your fellows.

  2. mike says

    Let’s treat our brothers and sisters like humans as we would like to be treated as human beings

  3. Miles Teg says

    The Zulu King, the Minister for Small Business, codedly Mantashe if I recall … all baying for foreign blood. A 70 something year old Malawian was found with his intestines hanging out and his penis was doused with paraffin and he was burnt to death – for selling sweets next to his mielie plants out of a small cupboard.
    Karma
    And Trevor Manuel, Alec Erwin and old COSATU people who did not stand up for the RDP but gave us GEAR must be responsible for this. Of course the silence of Cabinet on this is also to be taken into account.
    And Mngxitama says blacks can’t be racist? What a plonker. All he can say is, dont do this. What a useless use of BC if ever there was one. And they call him an intellectual… well Andile, only dead fish go with the flow.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.