Cape Argus/Sapa, 12 May 2008
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One person has been shot and killed and about 60 others injured when xenophobic violence flared in Alexandra township near Johannesburg. Sunday night's attacks on residents, mostly from Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique, began when a mob started breaking into their shacks, demanding that they move out of the area. The violence happened in an area mainly occupied by foreigners. Although calm had returned by this morning, most of the victims were still taking refuge at the local clinic, where they were treated for injuries. Others were transported to Chris Hani-Baragwanath hospital. Among the victims was 44-year-old Willex Katundu from Malawi. Head bandaged, Katundu said he had been asleep with his wife and three children when he was woken by gunshots and noise in the street. "When I went outside to check what was happening, I saw a lot of people carrying iron bars, stones, sticks and even guns. One guy said he was looking for foreigners who are taking their jobs and misbehaving in the community," he said. Terrified, Katundu dashed back to his shack, where he and his wife dressed their children, locked the doors and fled. Katundu took his wife to the house of a South African friend in the neighbourhood. On his return to salvage what he could from his shack, he was attacked by an arm-ed mob. "The mob asked: 'Who are you? Where do you come from?' before they started assaulting me. I could not hide the truth, because of my accent. I just told them where I come from," he said. The crowd took his keys and opened his shack. As they helped themselves to his belongings, he took the chance to escape to the Alexandra Clinic, where he was treated. Police spokesperson Inspector Simon Maphakela confirmed that the incident had been motivated by xenophobia. "They threw stones at these people, shot at them, whipped some of them with sjamboks and robbed them. They say the foreigners rob them on the streets. "One person was killed and about 30 others were taken to hospital with injuries. "All the victims were either from Malawi, Mozambique or Zimbabwe. We have arrested 12 people who will be charged (variously) with murder; attempted murder; theft; malicious damage to property; and public violence," said Maphakela. The manager of the Alexandra Clinic, Dr Muvili Simba, said 58 people had been treated for injuries. Two had been transferred to Johannesburg hospital in a serious condition after suffering gunshot and stab wounds. Two women had reported they had been beaten up and raped. They had been examined and taken to the local police station. Gashes and stitches on Simon Sibande's head bore evidence of a vicious attack on Monday. Sibande and his brother Elmond were sleeping when residents stormed their shack and ordered them to get out. Sitting and shivering outside Alexandra Clinic, Simon said he had been attacked with knobkerries and sjamboks. "They told us to go back to Zimbabwe. I did not have time to take my belongings; I had to run for my life. "They hit me with a sharp object on my head, I could not see what it was. I fell and I got up and ran away," he said. This morning Sibande was among a handful of foreigners who were sitting outside the clinic because they were too scared to go back to their shacks. Zimbabwean Richard Nxokweni, who said he had been living in Alexandra since 1983, was at his house when the attacks started. About 500 police officers have been deployed in the area to monitor the situation.