THEY BEAT ME WITH A METAL PIPE - KENYAN

Cape Argus , 7 June 2008

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


A Kenyan who fled his home in Malmesbury when the xenophobic violence erupted nearly three weeks ago was viciously attacked when he returned to fetch his belongings this week. The 26-year-old, who asked not to be named, took a train home on Sunday to see if he could retrieve his clothes and other possessions. But, while he was packing, two Xhosa-speaking men arrived and started swearing and hurling abuse at him. "They had a metal pipe and hit me in the face. They called me amakwerekwere (foreigners) and said I must go home." The man, who still has a deep gash on his face, has since returned to Soetwater camp near Kommetjie and is contemplating his future. He was forced to leave most of his things behind. "But they are just material things, I don't need them." An orphan, without family in Kenya, he still believes South Africa can offer him a better life. "I never expected to find myself in this situation," the well-spoken man said on Friday. "I just want to re-start my life but I'm so afraid of being victimised now. I don't want to go home in a box." Some immigrants and refugees chased out of Cape Town's townships during last month's violence are back home, trying to start their businesses again with no equipment, goods or money. Others have returned with a few goods to make enough money to go back to their home countries. Ernest Owusu, 26, from Ghana is one of these. "In the beginning they don't have a problem with you and then they see your business going up. That's when they get jealous and ask, 'Why do you foreigners come here and open businesses?' "They don't have the skills to start anything so they get jealous," said Owusu, a qualified electrical engineer. He lost nearly R10 000 in cash and airtime from his container in Khayelitsha last month when locals looted shops in the area. His shop was cleaned out by a crowd of about 50 people who also took six computers, three laptops, seven DVD machines and about 100 cellphones. "I saw them coming down the street and I just managed to get out and lock my shop but they used a grinder to get in." Owusu came to the country last year after a friend advised him he could make more money with his skills here. He opened his shop just four months ago and used all the money he had to start a repair shop. The containers many foreigners use cost between R10 000 and R15 000. Owusu said many of his friends had opted to stay and re-open their businesses although they had lost almost everything. But he was not prepared to take the chance. "I spent all the money I have on my business and now it's all gone. I'm just going to stay for a few days and try to make enough money to get home." Charles Kofi, 26, also from Ghana, is one of the foreigners who plans to stay and re-open his business. "I'm here on a study permit and I want to complete my studies, so now I have to start over because they stole everything," said Kofi, who has been in the country for four years and did a six-month travel and tourism course in Claremont. His cellphone repair shop was also looted and Kofi has already started replacing what was stolen and damaged in his container. More than 50 cellphones, cellphone accessories and about R5 000 in cash and airtime was stolen. "I came here because of financial problems and because I wanted to study. I started the repair shop because I did a technician course in Ghana and I needed to make money for my studies. Now I have nothing but I can't go home with nothing, so I'm going to try to get a loan and start again." He said that, before his shop was looted, he lived peacefully with the rest of the community. "I live here with these people and I don't have a problem with them - only now with this xenophobia thing. "Some people have come to say sorry for what the others did, but then others are still asking what we want here." Several other foreigners from Nigeria and Somalia in Khayelitsha said they were also going to try and start over, even though they were now scared.