ASSUMANI BORA: "THESE PEOPLE HERE DON'T LIKE FOREIGNERS"

IRIN News , 6 June 2008

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Assumani Bora fled when the war came to her part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and moved to South Africa with her family in 2002. She was forced to abandon her home and business after the xenophobic violence that began in South Africa on 11 May spread to Cape Town. The local Jewish community is paying for her and about 150 other foreign nationals to stay at a backpacker lodge in the city centre, but only until Sunday morning. "Before, I was in Durban [a port city on South Africa's east coast], but there was no work and life was hard, so we decided to come here in 2006 and I started my own business as a hairdresser in Gugulethu [a Cape Town township]. "Things started to go wrong last month [May], after it [xenophobic violence] started in Alex [Alexandra township, in northern Johannesburg]. Even besides that, we were just living under pressure - they were coming inside my salon, they would take money - not once, four times they did that. The first time they came, they hit my husband and me. We went to the police and they didn't do anything. "It was not just now, it started a long time ago. These people here don't like foreigners because they think we're taking their jobs. "Two weeks back, some of my customers were coming inside the salon. They said, 'We're not the ones doing that, we want to stay with you, but you have to go, there are those people who will hurt you'. "They don't know who are those people, or where those people are coming from. Even the street committee where I was staying said, 'You have to move, because this thing is going to happen and no one will save you and your family'. "My children were in school in Mitchells Plain [a mainly mixed-race township near Gugulethu] when it started in Alexandra. The other kids were telling them they're going to cut their necks. They won't go back to school because they're afraid. "One day, early in the morning, I see all the foreigners closed their businesses and the police were up and down - I even failed to open the salon. We moved to the police station and slept there; the first day we slept outside. "The next morning, I decided I must go and open the salon, maybe I can get something for my kids - I've got three kids. But I couldn't work that day because there was people standing on the street. "They said, 'You must go. Why are you stubborn like this? If you try to open the salon we're going to kill you'. I didn't even enter the salon. My customers tell me they burned everything there. I'll never go again. "They [the authorities] say we must go to the camp [the city is running four tent camps for displaced foreigners], but I'm not going to the camp, I'm afraid what's going to happen there. I don't trust anyone. We slept at the mosque for four days, and then we went back to the police station. "We've been here [at the backpacker lodge] since Sunday, but they [the people managing the lodge] say we have to leave this Sunday. We have no plan, but we won't go to the camp. If it can be better, I will go back to DRC because there's no means for me to stay in South Africa. "In the place where I came from there is war, but if we find another place where there is peace, I will go. Even if there's danger there, at least it's in my country."