HOUT BAY TOWNSHIP TIME BOMB TICKING ...

Cape Times, 15 April 2008

PLEASE NOTE: Readers wishing to reproduce and reference this article
should contact the editors of the Cape Times for permission


To a naive eye, a cursory glance at the township in Hout Bay, Imizamo Yethu, would appear to reveal a bustling place of chaotic yet somehow cohesive co-existence. On a Thursday afternoon, children are running and playing as women are keeping a watchful eye, preparing dinner and chatting. The men are playing pool and talking in their own circles. With limited space and both economic and social constraints it seems there would be a strong community-based understanding of a shared situation. Yet that is not the case. The clusters of people are calculated and defined not by proximity or personality, but by ethnicity. There are schisms in the community between South Africans and refugees. Xenophobia simmers in the back of minds and all it takes sometimes is a bad day to elicit it. In an 18-hectare area designated for about 2 500 people, but with an actual population of about 35 000, it is a time bomb waiting to happen, said councillor Marga Haywood. "Some of the refugees are right, " said Pinky Dungelo, a South African. "I'm friends with the good ones. But 99% of them are not right. They must go back." Dungelo, born and raised in Hout Bay, said her major complaints about refugees were that they were sick, dishonest and rude. "We've got no problems with them; they have problems with us by stealing from us," she said. "They're dangerous. They act like they're looking for jobs, but their details are fake and we don't know their real names." According to Dungelo, the refugees get women pregnant then disappear. Relationships between locals and foreigners are trouble. "If they have a Xhosa girlfriend and they fight, they beat the girl. They're not hitting her like the way a South African man would. They fight like she's a man." Fear also exists on issues of safety and health. Dungelo believes refugees spread diseases. "Zimbabweans have worms and you get it from sex with them." Dungelo said she had never seen the worms before or knew of anyone who had, but she heard about it from other people. Around the corner, no more than a few metres away, sat Hango Jose, a Zimbabwean refugee who has lived in Hout Bay since 2003. Jose came in the hope of finding economic opportunities. At present, he is unemployed. He has experienced xenophobic remarks before, but never any acts of violence. "Several South Africans told me to go back to Zimbabwe and that I don't belong," Jose said. He doesn't feel the remarks are warranted or that refugees are taking jobs away from South Africans. "Most of the refugees here take the jobs at bars others don't want," he said. "The contractors are employing Zimbabweans. They believe Zims are stronger than South Africans."