CALM RETURNS TO ZANDSPRUIT

Sapa, 22 October 2000

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Calm returned on Monday to the Zandspruit informal settlement in Honeydew, western Johannesburg, where violence flared at the weekend when residents chased out Zimbabweans, accusing them of committing crimes.

However, police spokeswoman Terry-Ann Booyse said the law enforcers would not leave anything to chance, and 24-hour patrols would continue at the squatter camp.

She told reporters during a tour of the area that violence was likely to erupt again when most locals returned from work in the late afternoon.

Violence broke out in the area on Sunday when South African residents set alight their Zimbabwean neighbours' homes.

Police arrested 20 people on charges of public violence after 74 shacks were gutted by fire and 124 others looted.

The dispute is believed to have begun in September when a woman was killed at the settlement, and it was rumoured that a Zimbabwean citizen was the culprit.

As community leaders vowed on Monday to drive out all Zimbabwean residents, police arranged accommodation for the stranded foreigners. Women and children will stay at the Mabunda shelter in central Johannesburg, and men at the OJC shelter in Roodepoort.

Community development forum spokesman Lefty Mukhada accused the Zimbabweans of killing South Africans.

"We want them out or the government must find them another place. We tried to harbour them but they kill us," he said.

Mukhada denied that the determination to drive out the Zimbabweans was xenophobic.

Booyse said about 40 Zimbabweans slept at the Honeydew police station overnight after fleeing the attacks.

She said a shack was burnt to the ground on Monday morning but no injuries were reported.

Booyse said police would patrol the area for the rest of the day.

Six people were injured on Sunday when police used rubber bullets to disperse the crowd.

Reporters visiting the squatter camp in the company of police officers were told contradicting stories at the core of the dispute.

While Mukhada accused the foreigners of killing locals, one of the Zimbabweans who slept at the police station, Simetshi Sibanda, 54, said locals resented foreigners who had qualified for low-cost houses.

The houses in a nearby area would be occupied soon and Sibanda claimed the locals did not want them (foreigners) to stay there.

Sibanda, a self-employed painter who has been in the country for 36 years, said he was not thinking of going back home despite the attacks.

"I have a family here. My wife and kids are here, I can not go back," he said.

A local resident, Fainos Manenzhe, 30, claimed that most locals were not anti-foreigners but were forced to join the attackers for fear of their lives.

Manenzhe said locals who were sympathetic to foreigners or those in romantic relationships with them were threatened with evictions or would have their shacks burnt down.