Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Orlando Pereira and Agostino Antônio Bila are two of the more than
26,000 Mozambicans who have fled South Africa and returned to their
country of origin with little more than stories of hatred.
20, hawked washcloths and dishtowels in Jamestown, a small town in
South Africa's Eastern Cape Province, while Bila, 17, sold CDs in
Pretoria, about 50km north of Johannesburg.
Both have now
returned to Chamanculo, a sprawling township on the outskirts of the
Mozambican capital, Maputo, driven home by an outbreak of xenophobia
that has left 56 people dead, most of whom are thought to be
The young men sat at a table in a small bar,
passing around a bottle of locally produced gin, and told IRIN how
their homes were burnt by mobs, and about their journey to safety.
invaded the suburb where we were and ordered us out, saying that there
are no jobs for them because Mozambicans accept little money for a lot
of work," said Bila, who was staying with his sister-in-law in
Pretoria. "They said, 'We only want the Machanganas,'" a slang term
used by South Africans for Mozambicans. He has since lost touch with
Asked about their future, the men shrugged
and said they hoped to find work in Mozambique. "I'm not going back,"
said Bila. "I'm staying right here."
the blind hatred there were incidents of kindness: Donaldo Ramos Paz
Amade, 20, said a South African neighbour allowed him to store his
possessions at his house before his own dwelling was razed.
boss [in South Africa] gave me his phone number and said to call him if
things get better and he will come pick us up," said Amade, who worked
in construction for two years. "I'll go back to get my things, but to
Mozambicans have a long tradition of working in
South Africa, even during the apartheid years, and are viewing the
treatment of their fellow citizens with a sense of betrayal. "Ingratos"
(ungrateful people) said the headline of the latest edition of a
Mozambican weekly newspaper, Savana.
At a concert in Maputo on
Friday, pop singer Stewart Sukuma denounced the xenophobic violence and
referred to the high cost Mozambique bore by hosting South Africa's
guerilla armies when they were fighting apartheid. The audience
applauded when he asked: "Have they forgotten who helped South Africa
in its struggle to free itself?"
But beyond the condemnation
of South Africa's violence against foreigners, in which some people
were burnt alive while those watching laughed callously, there was
trepidation that the wave of returnees, who arrived with little more
than the clothes on their back, would aggravate the problems at home.
Crime wave fears
predominant concern of Maputo residents was that crime would increase,
particularly in the capital's suburbs, where many of the returnees have
"It's necessary to know that unemployment is one of
the premises that can put people on the path to practicing illicit acts
for their survival, and we have to gather our forces so that this
doesn't happen," Vice-Minister for the Interior, José Mandra, told the
local news agency, MediaFax.
Antônio Bonifacio, spokesman for
Mozambique's Institute for the Management of Calamities (INGC), which
coordinated the transport for the returnees and set up a resettlement
centre, said only 18 people were still there on 25 May. "It's just a
transit centre," he said. "People arrive, get in a car and go home. We
give them a ride and a meal."
According to MediaFax, even
Mozambicans working on South Africa's mines and housed in compounds,
fearing invasion by xenophobic mobs, were pleading with their employers
to let them return home until the situation calmed down.
reported that J.C. Gold Mine, on Johannesburg's East Rand, had
suspended its operations and allowed 190 of its Mozambican miners to
return home after mobs attempted to assault them at their compound on
Mozambican government officials were reportedly in
discussions with the owners of the East Rand Proprietary Mine (ERPM),
in Boksburg, to repatriate another 700 miners, who were currently under
police protection. An estimated 72,000 Mozambicans are employed in
South Africa's mining industry.
Malawi and Zimbabwe
Kanyinji, principal secretary in Malawi's ministry of information,
reportedly told an international news agency that "As of now, 3,000
Malawians have registered to return home. The number may increase,
depending how the situation settles down in South Africa." The first
busload of people arrived in Blantyre, the country's second city, on 26
The International Organisation for Migration, quoting
estimates by the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said about
25,000 Zimbabweans had fled to Zambia to escape the economic chaos and
political crisis in their home country, and thousands more were seeking
refuge in other Southern African countries.
Estimates of the
number of Zimbabweans in South Africa range from one million to more
than three million; a consequence of unemployment rates of more than 80
percent and recent post-election violence.
reports, about 80,000 to 100,000 foreign nationals are thought to have
been displaced by the outbreak of xenophobic violence 16 days ago in
Source: IRIN NEWS http://irinnews.org