Sapa, 24 October 2000

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Angry South Africans on Wednesday walked out of a meeting intended to ease tensions between them and their Zimbabwean neighbours at the Zandspruit informal settlement, west of Johannesburg. The meeting had to be moved from the Cross Media Centre in Honeydew to the local police station after South Africans refused to co-operate with the organisers. They claimed that only five representatives from their side were allowed in the meeting while all the Zimbabweans attended the same gathering. "How can the Zimbabweans who kill our people be inside when we, the complainants, are not allowed inside. There will be no peace in Honeydew," said Steve Zonke, a South African resident in the area. SA Council of Churches representative Gift Moerane said he was disappointed the way in which the meeting was planned. "The fact that the South Africans walked out of the meeting is a sign of no confidence in the process. We suggest that a neutral structure should hold the meeting," Moerane said. The meeting was continuing at the Honeydew police station. Concern was growing the defiance of the South Africans could start a new wave of violence in the area following a short spell of calm before the gathering. Violence at the informal settlement broke out on Sunday when South African residents set fire to their Zimbabwean neighbours' homes. Twenty people were arrested on charges of public violence after 74 shacks were gutted by fire and 124 others looted. The dispute between the South Africans and Zimbabweans 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. On Monday, community development forum spokesman Lefty Mukhada accused the Zimbabweans of killing South Africans.