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Mzansi Tales: The Day we Became 'Robbers'

Johannesburg – In 2008, we fled from xenophobic attackers. We were luck to escape.   But Mozambican Ernesto Nhamuave was not so lucky. The ...

Johannesburg – In 2008, we fled from xenophobic attackers. We were luck to escape.  

But Mozambican Ernesto Nhamuave was not so lucky. The ‘burning man’ flaming torso became a lasting world image.

My recent journey to Johannesburg had almost similar encounters. After a previous stint in the city, I knew what to expect. And anticipating any change would be asking much from Egoli – the city of gold.

By @Comic24Derick
In Florida, just outside Johannesburg, while visiting a longtime friend, we ran into a police convoy. “Can you put your hands on the car; I want to search both of you guys?” the cop said, as he flashed his service card.

‘Crime city’

We had no choice but to go down – literary. We briefly became chief suspects. After a thorough body search, we were freed. Later, we learned a Pakistan shop had been robbed. Drug peddlers had invaded the area in search of addicts.

What a rude welcome! Could this justify Johannesburg mayor, Herman Mashaba’s declaration that “all illegal foreigners out of my city…” South African crime rates are shocking!
Demonstrations against foreigners are on the increase in South Africa
Every day 53 people are murdered. 47 are hijacked, while 110 are raped, according to the police. In nine months, 37 630 rape cases were committed. Gauteng recorded 5 930, while KwaZulu-Natal. 400 cases of robberies occurred, with a 6 percent increase.

People were shot dead as another edition of xenophobia was reignited. Memories of another Mozambican – Emmanuel Sithole being stabbed in cold blood in front of roving cameras are still fresh, yet many – including illegal foreigners vow to remain.

East of Johannesburg, foreigners reportedly fought a battle against locals over the occupation of an abandoned building. For now: foreigners 1 – locals nil. The battle ground is a rundown, neglected building along Marshal Street.

Lights are accessed via street lights. It has become an epicenter of vice. Gangsters have declared the surroundings impassable.

Going nowhere

Despite the crime, multitudes are always attracted to this seemingly ‘heartless’ African city. Why?

Foremost, South Africa is a heartbeat of African business – and everyone wants to be part of that success. Neighbouring nations, Zimbabwe included are bleeding, not from violence but economic decline.

The nationwide cash crisis has prolonged. Companies are closing and droves find solace in vending. 200 000 Zimbabweans benefited from special permits since 2010. But the honeymoon ends after 2017.

“Accordingly, we have advised Zimbabwean nationals whose special permits are expiring, to apply for visas we issue under the mainstream immigration legislation, in the event, they aspire to stay for any other purpose or period,” pronounced Home Affairs Minister, Malusi Gigaba.

South Africa is among the top 10 countries where people seek asylum.  

“The majority of those who seek asylum are men between the ages of 18 and 35. The department rejects about 95 percent of these applications because they are not genuine asylum seekers, but use their permits to work, study or operate businesses,” said President Jacob Zuma.

Years after my departure, the attacks have resurfaced. On April 6, a vigilante mob cornered a Zimbabwean immigrant, Elvis Mbodazwe Nyathi, 43 in Diepsloot, Johannesburg. Together, they tied him, beat him and burned him alive.  

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