Pretoria News, 16 April 2008

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Barricaded inside her burning spaza shop, a mother listened helplessly to her nine-year-old daughter's screams of agony as she was burnt alive during a xenophobic attack in Mamelodi yesterday. The woman, known only as Ntinyoko, is in a serious condition in hospital. She and other members of her family were caught by a frenzied mob who had gone on a rampage early yesterday morning in the township's Phomolong section. Fifteen shacks and spaza shops were burnt down. Authorities believe the attacks are being co-ordinated by groups responsible for the recent xenophobic attacks in Tshwane. Scores of immigrants have lost their possessions and homes, and several have been murdered. Authorities now fear the attacks may spread to other informal settlements around Mamelodi. Mamelodi has the biggest immigrant population of all the townships in Tshwane. Mozambican and Somali action groups estimate that there are more than 3 000 immigrants living in squatter camps around Mamelodi. The latest violence began on Monday night when groups attacked four Zimbabwean families in their homes in Phomolong. A further 11 homes were destroyed yesterday. Describing the attack on her Zimbabwean neighbour, local resident Magdalene Masilela said she had been asleep when she heard people chanting that immigrants should be killed. "I didn't know what was going on. When I opened my door I saw people standing around Ntinyoko's spaza shop. I could hear people trying to break the door open. "She was screaming for help. I could hear her daughter crying. "Her husband was outside, trying to stop the people from getting inside, but they were hitting him. "They pushed him inside and looted the shop. They ran out and barricaded the family inside. They poured paraffin around the shop and set it alight. "They were cheering and laughing. They were like animals. "Ntinyoko was screaming for help. She was calling me. She was calling me to save them. I ran outside and another neighbour helped me tear down a wall, but we could only get Ntinyoko and her husband out. "We tried to get to her daughter, but it was too hot. She ran to the door, but we couldn't reach her. She was screaming and screaming. I tried to help, but I couldn't. "Why did they do this? Why did they kill this little girl?" Sizwe Khumalo, a Zimbabwean, said he and a friend were dragged out of their house and doused in paraffin. "They tried to set us alight, but the matches kept breaking." Khumalo and his friend escaped when the attackers began fighting with each other. They ran to a priest's house, where they hid. Khumalo's house and shop were razed. "My life has been destroyed. My family has nothing," he said. Tshwane's Mozambican community leader, Mathias Nyundo, said they didn't know why they were being attacked. "We are tired of the government not being able to stop this. Everywhere, Mozambicans are being attacked. We are now going to defend ourselves," he said. The Gauteng community safety department's Sam Mangena said he feared an outbreak of revenge attacks as there were immigrants and South Africans in the area who had been trained as soldiers and who could be extremely dangerous if pushed. "We are worried about what is happening. "There are indications that these attacks are linked to other xenophobic incidents in Tshwane. "We have received reports that this violence is about to explode and spread to other informal settlements in Mamelodi. The situation is tense and dangerous," he said. Tshwane Metro Police spokesperson William Baloyi said cases of murder, malicious damage to property and theft were being investigated. He said four people had been arrested.