News 24, 5 June 2008

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Residents in the southern part of the city were furious on Wednesday over a temporary safety shelter for foreigners that had been erected overnight on their doorsteps and were threatening to burn it down. "Violence is the only answer." "No one wants them here." "Take them away," about 60 residents from among other places, Glenanda North, Haddon and Oakdene, shouted at workers and government officials and waved banners while singing war songs. The group gathered at about 16:00 on the corner of Amanda Avenue and Rifle Range Road, across from the open field where the Johannesburg Roads Agency (JRA) was making space for displaced foreigners. Workers were cleaning the field next to the Frances Vorwerg School from early on Wednesday. About 380 tents from the United Nations (UN) were set up. An Eskom generator, which would provide electricity to the foreigners, was also erected in the middle of the camp. Residents said the field was usually occupied by homeless people who had set up their own shelters here and in Oakdene. Metro police officers apparently regularly chased these people away and even burnt down some of their shelters, a resident of Hadden, Daniel Rabe said. "They chase away our people but then with the biggest smile they set up shelters for the foreigners," he said crossly. The shelters would house 1 184 displaced foreigners from Jeppe police station and 530 from the Cleveland police station. These people had been left homeless by the xenophobic attacks on foreigners the past three weeks. This group of foreigners would have been housed in Kaserne but the government decided against it after an interdict. Residents raged against the government over its silence on the decision to erect a shelter in the middle of a neighbourhood. They were also furious over the fact that the government provided electricity and decent amenities "within 24 hours" to the foreigners, while South African citizens had to wait "days and weeks". "We South Africans are suffering." "There are so many of our people who go to sleep hungry and without a roof over their heads." "Now foreigners get everything for mahala," said another Hadden resident Louise Human. Fernando Balthazar, also of Hadden, said their neighbourhood had always been quiet but that residents now feared crime. "It's going to get ugly, I tell you." "We don't hope for violence but you just need one person to raise their hand then you'll see what happens."