Zimbabweans come under attack in South Africa

Johannesburg- South Africa (PANA) -- There was more burning and looting Tuesday night at Zandspruit informal settlement as South Africans continued what critics insist was "ethnic cleansing" to rid the area of Zimbabweans.
In spite of heavy police presence in the troubled informal settlement, more houses belonging to Zimbabweans were torched Tuesday, just hours after the ANC condemned the attacks and branded them xenophobic.
Earlier, ANC women's' league president Winnie Madikizela-Mandela visited the area to try and restore calm.
She spoke to locals and affected Zimbabweans who had been evicted from the sprawling settlement in the north of Johannesburg.
Thousands of terrified Zimbabweans have sought refuge at the nearby Honeydew police station.
Some South Africans complained that foreigners were taking their jobs, and that the Zimbabweans were prone to crimes.
Angry locals said the only solution was to send them back to their country.
At the weekend nearly 200 houses at the informal settlement belonging to Zimbabweans were torched and razed to the ground.
There were also reports of looting in the area.
Apparently, tensions had been simmering since a Zimbabwean man was accused of murdering a South African woman several weeks ago.
The accused has since been at large.
When angry locals failed to find the culprit they gave Zimbabweans an ultimatum to leave the settlement or face the consequences.
But Honeydew station commissioner Betty Ngobeni said the ultimatum was illegal, as South Africans had no right to remove anyone who was a legal resident.
Many Zimbabweans said they had legal status and had been in the country for more than 10 years, some even married to local women.
Although the South African government has condemned the attacks, it appears locals are unwilling to call them off, as more shacks were being set alight once identified as belonging to Zimbabweans.
Although, there were no reports of fatalities, police said they had arrested 20 people on charges of public violence.
Many stranded Zimbabweans said they were shocked by the sudden persecution.
Late Tuesday, about 2000 of them were moved to the decommissioned Durban Deep mine in Roodeport, about 10 km away.
The wet weather, which is showing no signs of abating, is worsening the problems Zimbabweans are facing, many having lost all their belongings, including identification papers.
The South African Humans Rights Commission, which has been monitoring levels of intolerance in the country, has also condemned the attacks.
"We have just had a world conference against racism and one theme was to challenge xenophobia.
An effort has to be made to teach people to look at Zimbabweans not as people who are in South Africa to steal jobs and land, but as people who are in the country to make an honest living," said Jody Kollapen of the SA Human Rights Commission.
Previous studies by the human rights commission indicate that four out of five South Africans feel that foreigners should be sent home, regardless of whether or not they are residing in the country legally.
Concerned with the rise of xenophobia, the Zimbabwe Consular General visited the area Tuesday, and sought assurances from the police that his countrymen would be protected.
But police have warned they are unable to maintain their heavy presence at Zandspruit for much longer.
The attacks came at time when farmers in the northern province were being asked by the South African government to repatriate more than 10 000 farm hands to make way for jobless locals.

24 october 2001 08:30:00

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