THE safety of South African drivers plying their trade across neighbouring countries is under threat as nationals in the region threaten to retaliate the killing of a Zimbabwean national and rising xenophobic sentiment.
Zimbabwean gardener Elvis Nyathi, who had been living and working in South Africa for six years, was gruesomely killed in Diepsloot, north of Johannesburg, the culmination of weeks of tensions triggered by a local group demanding that “illegal foreigners” leave the country.
Nyathi, who is said to have failed to produce his passport to the assailants, was allegedly set on fire by a mob. Earlier, the mob had demanded cash from the deceased’s wife if she wanted them to set him free. They wanted R300, but she only had R50, which was enough to spare her life but not that of her husband too.
This past weekend, drivers crossing into several countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) regional bloc were reportedly stopped and warned of retaliation by their counterparts.
There were reports of such incidents in Zimbabwe and several other countries in Africa.
This extends the already tense relations between South African drivers and those from the region who in recent months have been harassed while in South Africa by some local drivers demanding that local operators stop hiring foreign drivers.
“Drivers belong to different countries. South African drivers are operating in different countries, move freely and we don’t bother them. Now, with the situation happening in South Africa (killing of foreigners), we cannot allow it to happen,” said a driver in Tanzania.
He threatened nations in the SADC would retaliate against South Africans in the respective neighbouring countries.
The driver said through this weekend’s action against South African drivers, they were “sending a message” to all South Africans harassing foreign nationals there.
“We are warning you (drivers) in a polite way. Go and tell your colleagues in South Africa, we don’t like what is happening there,” he said.
Some drivers are demanding that their South African counterparts cease entry on other countries.
“We want South Africans to realise no man is an island. Whatever violence they are perpetrating in South Africa is going to have some serious repercussions against them,” a Zambian driver said.
Nyathi, a 43-year-old man, was killed in a mob attack in Diepsloot last week as locals increasingly accuse foreigners of committing crime, taking both their jobs and women.
A small but angry group went around homes asking residents of their documents. The deceased apparently hid outside his home as he had no papers. Nyathi was later attacked after the mob found him. He worked as a gardener in the nearby posh suburb of Fourways, north West of Johannesburg.
Friends and neighbours described Nyathi as a peaceful person. He is survived by his wife and four children living in Zimbabwe. Reportedly, his spouse has fled the area afraid of her safety. Those remaining in Diepsloot live in fear.
Police minister, Bheki Cele, and national police commissioner, General Sehlahle Fannie Masemola, were among officials that attended the crime scene. Thy assured that the situation was “not out of control.” – CAJ News