Pretoria News, 20 April 2008

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The people attacking foreigners are criminals who are only interested in looting the foreigners' belongings. This is according to Soshanguve councillor Maria Mudumela, who yesterday pleaded with the community to stop the xenophobic attacks that have plagued several city townships recently. Mudumela said some of the locals were jealous of the foreigners' business acumen. "Let us embrace them rather than kill them. They have problems in their countries and we should help. Not all of them are criminals," she said. She said rather than attack the foreigners, the residents should form a neighbourhood watch and arm themselves with whistles. "Let us not take the law into our own hands. "If you see that there is a problem at your neighbour's house, whistle and other residents will come and help you. Police can't patrol the area alone. We should help them," she said. Residents complained that police took too long to respond to crime - that's why they were taking the law into their own hands. "It seems these people (foreigners) have more freedom and rights than us. They occupy most of our land, which our children should be occupying," said resident Mmule Ramaswe. At the meeting, which was also attended by sector police, residents agreed to refrain from further attacks and to form street committees. Another meeting to discuss the problem of crime in the area is scheduled for next Sunday. Meanwhile, displaced immigrants at the old Malas tyre warehouse do not know what awaits them when they leave the temporary shelter the Tshwane Metro Council has provided. The immigrants have been housed at the warehouse since the attacks at the informal settlement of Brazzaville in Atteridgeville last month. The immigrants have complained of the lack of water, sanitation, electricity and security at the shelter, adding that they are now fighting among themselves for the little food available. They said they had not received any water for more than a week, and are forced to buy water from Marabastad residents who charge them between 50c and R1 a bucket. Zimbabwean Thulani Ngudula said they felt helpless as there was nothing they could do to force the council to attend to their concerns. "When you are on someone's home turf, you can't force them to do anything. "Now we are supposed to buy water, yet we have lost all our money and possessions." Ngudula, who has used the tyres in the warehouse to create a make-shift bedroom for him and his wife, said he was disappointed at how they have been treated as all the foreigners at the warehouse were in the country legally. The Tshwane Metro Police promised to provide 24-hour security, but, the immigrants said, there had been no security guards at the warehouse for two weeks. They also said the mobile toilets provided by the council had not been emptied, so they had to use the nearby bushes. On Friday, Zahaid Asmal of the Islamic Association of South Africa donated food, toilet paper and soap to the immigrants in Malas and at Stanza Bopape Community Hall. On Wednesday, the head of the Kopano Baptist Ministries, Kevin Zakariasen, organised security guards. Zakariasen has been accommodating 33 of the immigrants at his house. Most immigrants remain deeply fearful of further violence following the recent attacks on foreigners in Mamelodi. One immigrant showed the Pretoria News a pamphlet, which he claimed was being distributed in Atteridgeville last week, urging residents to chase all immigrants from the area. The pamphlet read: "All residents, can you please move out all immigrants (makwerekwere) from your yards/houses before end of this week? We are sick and tired of them. THIS IS A WARNING LETTER. Anytime is tea time. You know what is going to happen if you don't do the right thing." Human rights activist Jeffrey Basubi said it was disappointing that the council could not prioritise the plight of the immigrants as they were in the country legally. "These people are not illegal immigrants, they are refugees who are here because of difficult situations in their countries," he said. Council spokesperson Console Tleane referred Pretoria News to a metro police spokesperson, who said there were plans to move the immigrants from the warehouse. "We as metro police can only provide security and we have done that. The warehouse is meant to be a transit point and we do admit that the conditions are not favourable but we have reported the matter to our sister departments to assist. "We appeal to members of the public to also assist us where they can," he said.