REFUGEES WELCOMED HOME - BY SOME

Cape Argus , 15 June 2008

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


Most Cape Town areas from which foreigners fled during xenophobic attacks are welcoming them back with open arms - but gangs of young thugs have different ideas. Last month locals around the country attacked foreigners living in townships, with the first attacks in Johannesburg rapidly spreading to other areas, including Cape Town. In Cape Town thousands of terrified foreigners fled from Site B in Khayelitsha, Du Noon, Philippi, Nyanga, Strand and Masiphumulele, among other areas, into community halls, church and mosque halls and safety camps around the city. Many lost everything they owned, including stock worth thousands of rands in small businesses. Now hundreds of displaced foreigners have gone back to their townships to start afresh, but have been met with a mixed reaction. A task team made up of roleplayers in the situation said on Friday that at the height of the incidents around 20 000 people were being put up in emergency accommodation, but this number had now dropped to about 8 000. A Weekend Argus team visited several of the hotspots last week. A local from Du Noon, Herbert Msuluti, who sells oranges and cigarettes from a stall, said: "We are happy that they are back but you can never be too sure if what happened won't happen again, even though people who suffered the most when they were gone (because shops closed) will protect them if anything happens." Khanyiswa Kanti of Philippi, said: "It is very good that they are back because they are very helpful, very cheap and they will give you whatever you want, even if you are short of some money. "It was very painful and I'm sure even the people who did this know it was bad." Many people in the townships are helping returning refugees to rebuild their homes, but there are still volatile pockets of resistance. Thomakazi Sityebi of Philippi, who was doing her laundry at a tap that is shared by hundreds who live in the area next to the road, said: "As I'm doing this washing next to this road I heard some guys talking among themselves when they saw those Somalis rebuilding their shops. They said 'bazokunya kwakhona' (we'll get them again)." Mohamed Abdul Ali, who owns a shop in Du Noon, said: "Last night (Wednesday) they tried to break into my shop. They broke the windows and tried to break through the burglar bars. We are still scared and we don't know where to go." Police spokesperson Captain Elliot Sinyangana said police were on the alert. "All station commissioners are well aware of the situation and have put plans in place and measures to monitor the situation. We will effectively implement our plans to ensure police visibility." Councillor of ward 91 in Khayelitsha, Elsie Kwayinto, said refugees and immigrants were returning home in droves, even though many of them were fearful of the future. "The foreigners are coming back even though they are scared. They even lost their building materials and now they can't start over. "We've asked the municipality to help by giving them some material so they can rebuild again."