Monday, May 26, 2008
2,000 people fleeing violence against foreigners in Cape Town boarded a
special train on Saturday to take them to Johannesburg, from where they
will join their compatriots from across the country hoping to be
evacuated from South Africa.
The violence flared in the
townships around the southern coastal city on Thursday night, copying
the pattern of attacks and looting that began in Johannesburg on 10
May. By Friday afternoon nearly 600 refugees were at the Milnerton
Police Station and Killarney Race Track, suburbs northeast of the city,
waiting to be moved to community halls and churches where they would
spend the night.
"Last night they came to take our things.
Tonight there will be killing," Pascal Ndikumana, a Burundian security
guard who has lived in Cape Town for 18 months, told IRIN at the
Milnerton police station.
People were begging officers to
return to the townships with them to fetch their things before it was
"too late." "There are a few who want to go back and we assist where we
can, but most don’t want to go," said Inspector Daphne Dell. "Things
are still very tense," she added.
Julien Mafuta, a travel
consultant from the Republic of Congo, has lived in the racially mixed
township of Phoenix, northeast of the city, for over 11 years with his
two children. "We don’t know what we'll do. I feel like something major
can happen here. From what I've seen, it looks like many lives could be
The looting continued all day on Friday in the
townships of Du Noon, Masiphumelele, Khayelitsha, Lwandle, Macassar,
Mitchells Plain, Nyanga, and Ocean View. By late Friday night it had
reached downtown Cape Town, South Africa’s tourism-rich second city.
of the displaced IRIN spoke to complained of a poor police response to
the violence. "Since the weekend we all heard this was going to happen,
but no measures were taken to avoid it," Mafuta said.
people from Du Noon said that locals and foreigners alike had been
instructed by the police to attend a meeting on Thursday evening in the
township, but that there was no clear reason for the gathering and
people left angry. At 10pm the looting of Somali shops began.
of xenophobic violence are not a new phenomenon in Cape Town. In 2006,
over a period of three months, 29 of the city's population of 4,000
Somalis were killed in xenophobic attacks, according to a spokesperson
for the Somali refugee community. The police dispute the figure and
claim only 10 Somalis were killed, and that this was a result of crime
and not xenophobia.
The governments of Mozambique and Zimbabwe
have begun the "voluntary repatriation" of their citizens from South
Africa, in the wake of the ongoing violence that police say has claimed
42 lives, displaced more than 16,000 people and led to 400 arrests.
a press conference on Friday, Western Cape Premier Ebrahim Rasool,
Police Commissioner Mzwandile Petros and Community Safety Minister
Leonard Ramatlakane all condemned the attacks and said the army was on
stand-by. However, Rasool and Petros maintained they were confident the
police had the situation under control, and insisted the unrest was a
result of "looting and common criminals".
Source: IRIN NEWS http://irinnews.org