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Malawians chased in South Africa

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By Peter Kanjere:

Resurfacing of sporadic attacks on Malawians and other foreign nationals in South Africa has prompted the Rainbow Nation’s International Relations and Cooperation Minister, Lindiwe Sisulu, to call for an urgent meeting with African ambassadors including from Malawi.

As of Sunday, South Africa’s Sowetan and Sunday Tribune newspapers reported that three foreigners had been killed in the attacks, some injured and others displaced in Durban areas of Sydenham and Overport.

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The attacks have been linked to xenophobia but the South African government insists the incidents are criminally motivated. Some of the displaced people are seeking refuge at police stations.

Malawi Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation spokesperson, Rejoice Shumba, Sunday said, by close of business on Friday, she had not received information on such attacks.

In a statement on Saturday‚ Sisulu called on law-enforcement officers to deal with criminals and those damaging properties.

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“South African companies and our citizens are welcomed and loved across the continent: here at home‚ we should do the same‚ we must embrace our neighbours and fellow South Africans,” the newspaper quoted Sisulu as saying on www.sowetan.co.za.

On Friday‚ eThekwini Council and Malawi High Commission denied the violence was xenophobic in nature‚ stating instead that it was “criminally motived”.

“Both the municipality and the Malawian High Commission are in agreement that the incidents that led to Malawian nationals being chased out of their homes are not xenophobia but were criminally motivated as their belongings were stolen by the angry mob‚” the municipality says in the statement.

Sisulu said in international forums such as the United Nations‚ African Union and Southern African Development Community‚ the African continent and all countries in the world look up to South Africa for leadership.

“All of us must stand up and send a strong message that violence‚ all criminal activities and looting of properties of foreign nationals will not be tolerated‚ and the police and other law- enforcement agencies must act without fear or favour‚” Sisulu told Sowetan.

Elias Twaibu,30, a Malawian who survived the attacks in Durban, told Sunday Tribune that he regretted to have returned to South Africa, having also escaped from such an ordeal in 2015.

“In 2015, I was with a friend who owned a shop on Broadway when his store was attacked. A group of men armed with axes and knives came in and attacked us. They accused us of stealing their jobs, told us to leave their country, then beat us up. They demolished the store, then proceeded to steal items at my friend’s shop,” he was quoted as saying.

“I came here because of the economic situation at home. I wanted a better life, so I travelled to Durban, but after being attacked and treated like a criminal, I thought it would be best if I went home.”

Twaibu is among hundreds of Malawians who want to go home, having been attacked and displaced from their homes in Burnwood in Sydenham, Durban, on Tuesday.

Loveness James, 22, who is nine months’ pregnant and due to give birth on Friday, told the newspaper that all she was left with were the clothes on her back and she and her husband were chased from their home in the early hours of Monday morning.

“They started shouting, and telling us to leave, they kept chanting that we must leave their country, they hit and kicked my husband. All I could think of was my unborn baby, my water breaking and me giving birth in front of people who wanted us dead,” she was quoted as saying.

James said her only wish was to return to Malawi.

“The people in power keep telling us that in three days the people at Burnwood would have calmed down and we can all go back. That is not what we want. We want to go back home,” she said.

However, Sunday Tribune quoted eThekwini Mayor, Zandile Gumede, as assuring that residents of Burnwood informal settlement were ready to welcome the Malawians.

“It was also agreed during meetings that leaders of foreigners should form part of community development forums in the area and the displaced should go back to their homes within 48 hours,” she said while addressing the displaced foreigners living under a marquee erected at Sherwood Hall.

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