Hundreds of migrant families are seeking refuge in a community hall and mosque in Bredasdorp after violence erupted in the farming town last week. Residents destroyed foreigners’ homes after accusing them of leaving their own countries to come and get employment in South Africa at the expense of locals.
Last week, two foreign nationals were injured when residents broke down their shacks, following a march by residents to local authorities.
Residents handed over a memorandum with a number of issues, including the influx of undocumented non-nationals to the area. They also voiced their dissatisfaction about the renting of informal dwellings to non-nationals by residents.
At least 450 families have been affected after their houses were destroyed and vandalised. They are being escorted by police to the township to collect what’s left of their belongings.
Zimbabwean community leader, Givemore Nyakarimba says the situation remains tense.
“This is inhumane. We do not have anywhere else to go. We are stranded and we are calling for people to come to our rescue.”
Some of the displaced people had this to say. “My wife is pregnant. All the preparation we had done is now gone.”
The Cape Agulhas Municipality’s Manager, Eben Phillips says it has launched a multi-government approach in managing the situation.
“We have been engaging with the community and we have realised that this is not the whole group that has been doing this, but certain people with their own interests. We are trying to find solutions and there is a possibility of re-integration.”
The South African Human Rights Commission has been assisting in mediation talks. Western Cape Human Rights Commissioner, Chris Nissen says they are investigating possibilities that the conflict in Zwelitsha emanated from last week’s clashes between Lesotho and Zimbabwean nationals in Robertson near Worcester.
“We have been monitoring the situation at Robertson regarding the clashes between nationals from Lesotho and nationals from Zimbabwe, who were chased out of Nkqubela. We stabilised the situation. It does appear now that some of the nationals from Lesotho as alleged by some people left for Bredasdorp to mobilise the community against Zimbabweans. Our team has been there and they have been there and have been stabilizing the situation together with the municipality. There were complaints about jobs and that Zimbabweans are preferred.”
The situation remains tense with a heavy police presence in the area, while mediation attempts continue.