A pall of uncertainty is hovering around Diepsloot, a township in Johannesburg, with residents protesting the spake of crime in the area, which they think is high and alarming and foreigners and living in fear as their lives are now in grave danger.
A 43-year-old foreign gardener, Elvis Nyathi, who came to live and work in South Africa six years ago from Zimbabwe, was killed last night in a mob attack in the area yesterday night (Wednesday, April 6), further deepening the uncertainty surrounding security in the area.
Residents blame insecurity in the area on illegal immigrants and an ineffective police force.
Elvis Nyathi’s wife, Nomsa Tshuma, also a Zimbabwean, is mourning the death of her husband who was killed by people who were doing door-to-door search for foreigners and demanding to see their passports.
Tshuma, who detailed her experience during an interview on SABC said they were watching TV when they heard people shouting for passports and other identity documents.
The distraught widow said: “We were in a friend’s shack watching Uzalo on TV when we heard people knocking next door shouting ‘ID! Passport!’.
“We decided to run away because he (her husband) did not have an ID or a passport and I’m the only one who has a passport. I decided to go with him. We ran past some shacks and hid in a passage, just the three of us. We sat there and heard people coming into the yard, waking up our neighbours.”
Tshuma said they heard someone running on top of a roof, probably being pursued.
“They found out that we were renting there and then they saw my husband and my friend. They didn’t see me because I was lying down. My husband and my friend ran away, and I returned to the shack where a group of people came asking where my husband’s gun is,” she told the SABC.
As she denied knowledge of a gun or that her husband owned one, Tshuma said she was repeatedly whipped. Then, the men asked her for R300.
“I told them I don’t work and I only have R50 on me. They took the money and left,” she said.
It was not until later that she got a call from a friend saying Nyathi was burned by the mob that chased after and caught up with him.
The attack on Elvis Nyathi has provoked outrage from many quarters, as well as from the very vocal Economic Freedom Fighters(EFF). The party condemned the mob attack while also warning local vigilantes.
On the insecurity in Diepsloot, South Africa’s police minister Bheki Cele is apparently aware. During a visit to the place, he’d place spelt out his ministry’s plans to contain insecurity and restore normalcy.
According to the minister, the government would deal with the criminals and those renting spaces to them.
Analysts say this is not a response to an immigration crisis – immigrant numbers are not higher than they have been for a decade – but they say it’s a crisis of constitutional credibility.
To finance their protest and political activities, the vigilante groups plunder foreign-owned shops and businesses. Like the self-financing armies of old, protesters are given license to loot. One leader reported that when protesters feel hungry, they go and get food from foreign owned shops to eat or take home to cook; and if the shops are closed they go to the next locations.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has lashed out at Operation Dudula and other groups, accusing them of stoking xenophobic tensions in South Africa.
“We can’t allow people to use vigilantism to deal with issues. We should not allow ourselves to be at war with those from other countries, unemployment must not do that to us. Those who set up organisation – such as Operation Dudula – are contravening the law. This can turn into outright xenophobia…,” Ramaphosa said in a March 21 speech.