AS TOLD TO
During the March/April xenophobic attacks in Durban, a group of Congolese men in Philani, uMlazi Y section were attacked, allegedly because that they had killed a perosn. A month later, those who had to flee the area returned with the hope that everything had calmed down, only to be attacked again. Congolese national Matabishi Kasese (29) told the Daily Vox about the ordeal.
It was on the 31st of March that we were attacked upon allegations that we had killed a local. Some were beaten badly and we had to flee the place and our salons, we lost everything. The government officials told us it was safe to move back into the community, but when my brothers went back, they were attacked again.
I have been in South Africa since 2014 and I witnessed the 2015 attacks, although I wasn’t affected directly. After witnessing the 2015 events I felt terrible but I was able to calm down and feel comfortable again. But now I don’t feel safe ,and it’s not just me but the rest of my fellow people that lived in Philani.
We are currently staying in town and some of the people who attacked us used to bump into us in town. Anything can happen, although after investigations by police it was found who had killed the person. It was said that the suspect was not even a Congolese national but we are still being attacked.
It’s unfair having to suffer for other people’s crimes all in the name of being a foreigner. We are all human beings with different ways of thinking and do things differently. We didn’t even know the person who allegedly killed that person, we are running salons as businesses but now we have lost everything because of this.
When the group attacked us on the 31st they were prepared to burn us, they had brought petrol and some of my brothers were badly beaten and left for death, fortunately nobody died.
With all that is happening, we have received very little to no help at all. In Philani we had our own homes but now that we had to leave without anything, some people are forced into homelessness. While others sleep on the benches in the open, some have to sleep in churches or shelters. The situation is not easy because it’s not like we were not working, we had our salons.
We currently have nothing and rely on the little help from the people who are able to assist. South African Social Security Agency(SASSA) had given us vouchers to spend on groceries and other necessities at one of the stores but they won’t allow us to, because of our nationalities.
Although the vouchers are in our names, we are still unable to use them. We have been told that we need to produce a South African Identity Document to redeem the vouchers, which we don’t have.
We don’t know what’s going to happen to our lives because we have nothing now. Some of the people in different centres where we have been seeking help have told us not to complain because there are many homeless people in South Africa, who sleep on the streets. But the difference between us and all the homeless people is that we have been driven to it, we weren’t always homeless. We have been fending for ourselves, we are not here to claim anyone’s rights but to work, and have been able to work and support our families through businesses.
Meanwhile, eThekwini Mayor Zandile Gumede had said the attacks on foreign nationals were pure criminality, and not an element of xenophobia. Gumede further said that the affected foreign nationals would be reintegrated with their communities, maintaining that their safety would not be in jeopardy.
Featured image by Pontsho Pilane