Image by: ALON SKUY
The message to the government from hundreds of foreigners getting onto buses out of South Africa is clear: we don't believe you.They are leaving despite the government's assurance that they will be safe if they stay.
Almost 600 Zimbabweans yesterday packed up what remained of their lives here and crammed into nine buses parked on a soccer field in Chatsworth, Durban. Their next stop: home.
Ronald Dandavare desperately wanted to get on one of those buses.
"He [President Jacob Zuma] says we will be safe, but it's not safe for us. People won't listen. I am willing for things to go back to normal, but I can't [risk it]. We will be killed one by one," he said.
Since Friday, the South African and other governments in Africa have hired buses to repatriate hundreds of people displaced in three weeks of xenophobic violence in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.
At least 1000 foreigners have left the country so far, most of them heading to Malawi, Zimbabwe or Mozambique.
There are still 2000 people living in a transit camp in Phoenix, north of Durban. They would be moved in the course of the week, said an official, who would not be named.
Minister of Home Affairs Malusi Gigaba, who heads the cluster of ministers Zuma appointed to quell the violence, yesterday reassured the continent that everything was being done to restore order.
But Marc Gbaffou, chairman of the African Diaspora Forum, is not convinced.
"The government made a good call [for the violence to stop], but there is a need to make sure that call is felt.
"Why did the government not publicly reprimand the Zulu king for saying foreigners must pack and go? The world is watching how South Africa, Africa's super power, responds to this," he said.
Police Minister Nathi Nhleko defended King Goodwill Zwelithini yesterday, saying that the king had not called for foreigners to leave the country but had rather referred to illegal foreigners who should be deported.
At the launch of the police's We Are One Humanity campaign in Durban, Nhleko said he had been present at a moral regeneration event in Pongola, northern KwaZulu-Natal, at which the king had spoken.
A translation of a recorded version of Zwelithini's speech, which has been published online, quotes him as saying: "We ask foreign nationals to pack their belongings and go back to their countries."
Nhleko said this was an incorrect translation of the Zulu, which does not have a specific word for "deport".
"These are two different languages . [and] to try and corroborate them is a problem. [Zwelithini] was referring to the deporting of illegal foreigners," said Nhleko.
The king had spoken in the context of foreigners crossing into the country illegally through porous borders, a valid complaint that was being addressed by the government, Nhleko said.
"If you are here illegally, you shouldn't be here. The government follows the law. These were the issues that the king was addressing in his speech," Nhleko said.
Zwelithini will today address the controversy publicly at a royal imbizo in Durban.
The police ministry hopes to combat Afrophobia through the We Are One Humanity campaign, which will feature roadshows across the country. A thumbs-up sticker will show "a commitment to a xenophobic-free lifestyle".
Nhleko said: "Now that the situation is stabilising, the government is turning its attention to a long-term, sustainable intervention that will address the underlying mindsets that motivate these attacks in the first place. Xenophobic tendencies represent all that is backwards in society."
Gigaba, at a briefing in Pretoria, said 307 suspects had been arrested in connection with the recent violence.
Police are offering a R100000 reward for information that might lead to the arrest of the killers of Mozambican Emmanuel Sithole in Alexandra, Johannesburg. The Sunday Times yesterday ran pictures of a man stabbing a helpless Sithole, who later died from the wounds
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