'COME BACK, WE'RE SORRY'

Daily News, 5 June 2008

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Residents of a Chatsworth informal settlement have apologised to foreigners who were chased away and assaulted after a spate of xenophobic attacks in the community. On Wednesday, as foreign nationals returned to the Road 1102 informal settlement, those who had hurled insults and blows at them expressed remorse and regret. Phumlani Bhengu, who is one of the community leaders in the area, said they wanted the victims of xenophobia to return to their homes. "What happened in our area was not right and after speaking to the people, we set out to the police station where they had run to and told them to come home. They were initially scared to come back because the pain is fresh in their minds, but in the past few days they have been slowly returning to their homes, which has eased our hearts." Hortencia Nequisse, one of the victims who made her way back to the community, said when she heard that they were welcome to return to their homes, she was sceptical as she did not know what to expect. "I waited for a few days and I decided that I wanted to go back to Mozambique. "I went back to the settlement with the aim of taking the rest of my things, but to my surprise, when I got there I was given a warm welcome, so I stayed and things are now back to normal," she said. Alius Khumalo, who is also from Mozambique, said he was a nervous wreck when he walked into his community for the first time after being told they were now welcome. "I first stood at the entrance of the settlement thinking twice about going in and then I saw someone I knew who greeted me. "At that moment I felt that the community was at peace with us. Today I am moving the rest of my stuff back into my shack and I really feel at home, just like I always did, and I pray that all our other brothers and sisters who have not yet returned will also come back home," he said. Another victim, who chose not to be named, said she and her eight-month-old baby had been without food for a while and that the whole experience had hurt her. "I have been moving my things back this week and I can see that the whole experience has changed the outlook among the members in our community. "At this point, I feel that some form of unity has been accomplished and I am truly humbled and have forgiven those who attacked us," she said.