Cape Town Mosques Shelter Immigrants
By Yazeed Kamaldien, IOL Correspondent
Hundreds of foreigners have been displaced by xenophobic violence in Cape Town. (Reuters)
CAPE TOWN — Mosques and churches across Cape Town have opened their doors this weekend to African immigrants seeking protection from local citizens who have attacked and chased them out of their informal settlements.
"We have been calling them (South Africans) brother. We are friends and they showed us respect," said Assumani Wilondja, an immigrant from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Wilondja, who arrived in South Africa in 2002 and runs a hair salon, was chased out of Lower Crossroads informal settlement on Friday night.
"They broke my house and took everything. They said just go and leave everything here. They pushed the door. We moved in peace," he said.
"I have three children and I was alone. I couldn’t fight back. There were a lot of people."
Mosques committees visited the Cape Town police headquarters to take in refugees who spent the last night sleeping on the sidewalk.
The Muslim Judicial Council, an Islamic authority in South Africa which is headquartered in Cape Town, asked all mosques to accommodate African refugees.
Wilondja said he felt the South African government "failed to protect us".
"We were not safe in our countries, that’s why we came here. But now we are also not safe."
An estimated 10,000 people have been displaced by South Africa's anti-immigrant violence in Cape Town, a city spokesman said Sunday, taking the total number of displaced in the country to more than 35,000.
African immigrants, from various African states, have been killed, beaten and chased out of their homes for days.
Xenophobic attacks on African immigrants started in Johannesburg, the country’s economic capital, last weekend before spreading to Cape Town.
South Africans demonstrate against an outbreak of anti-foreigner violence outside the parliament in Cape Town. (Reuters) Mufano Wasso, an asylum seeker from the Democratic Republic of Congo, was surprised by what happened.
"We don’t know why they chase us away like this, like animals," he complained.
"They are beating us and stealing from us. I was staying in Lower Crossroads (informal settlement). I ran away from there yesterday morning, with my wife and five children."
Wasso said he has been living in South African for five years already and works as an electrician.
His wife and children are staying with friends in Mitchell’s Plain, also an impoverished area with high crime rates, while he was seeking assistance from the local police.
"I went to the police station in Lower Crossroads and they could help me. Police came with me into my street to fetch my blankets and bed at home," he recalls bitterly.
"The police stood near me but when I opened my house I saw that the people took everything."
Nibizi Msabah, an asylum seeker from Burundi, feels very disappointed in South Africa.
"We expected a high level of hospitality but now we are being hunted like animals in a forest," said Msabah.
"It’s very bad. A lot of Somali people have been killed and injured in the past and the government did nothing. Now the whole world can see what happens in South Africa," he fumed.
"We are sleeping in the streets and we don’t know who to talk to. The South African government only offers us permits and then leaves us. We need to survive on our own. We have no support from the government or the United Nations."