Xeno camp shuts down

Gov­ern­ment de­cides it’s time to send re­main­ing refugees back to the com­mu­ni­ties they ran from

CityPress - - News - PADDY HARPER paddy.harper@city­press.co.za

The last 190 refugees from the wave of xeno­pho­bia that swept through Dur­ban three months ago will be out on the streets on Tues­day when the Chatsworth camp that was set up to house the thou­sands who fled their homes is shut down by gov­ern­ment. This week­end, 38 fam­i­lies and 99 sin­gle­tons were ner­vously pre­par­ing for the move, which they dread. They have called the tented camp on the West­cliff Sports Field home since the first at­tacks took place in Isipingo in the wake of a con­tro­ver­sial speech by King Good­will Zwelithini.

Two weeks ago, pro­vin­cial and city gov­ern­ment met with the com­mit­tee rep­re­sent­ing the mainly Burundian and Con­golese refugees – who have been un­able to se­cure refugee sta­tus from the UN and re­lo­ca­tion to another coun­try – to in­form them they would have to re­turn to the com­mu­ni­ties from which they were driven.

Trans­port, Com­mu­nity Safety and Li­ai­son MEC Willies Mchunu, who chairs the in­ter­min­is­te­rial com­mit­tee set up to deal with the cri­sis, said at the time he was “pleased” with the progress made dur­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions with com­mu­ni­ties to al­low for­eign na­tion­als to re­turn.

How­ever, camp res­i­dents were wor­ried about what would hap­pen when they re­turned, while oth­ers were look­ing for al­ter­na­tive ac­com­mo­da­tion.

Daniel Du­nia, the spokesper­son for the camp’s res­i­dents, told City Press that each fam­ily was be­ing given an al­lowance of R7 000 by the UN to try to restart their lives. Sin­gle peo­ple were be­ing given R3 500 for their first month’s rent and food. Busi­ness­peo­ple who had lost their liveli­hoods when South Africans looted for­eign-owned shops in Isipingo, KwaMakhutha, Chatsworth, Inanda and Um­lazi were not given any com­pen­sa­tion, he said.

“We are scared about what will hap­pen on Tues­day. We don’t re­ally know what steps have been taken to con­vince peo­ple we should be rein­te­grated. Many of us can’t go back to where we were liv­ing. My land­lord has al­ready put some­body else in my flat.

“My shop is still empty, but I don’t have the means to buy equip­ment and stock to start up again. At least if we who lost busi­ness could be given some­thing to start over, it would be a bit eas­ier for us. Now we will be out on the street – no jobs, no busi­ness, no means of sup­port­ing our­selves,” Du­nia said.

He said they had asked for the camp to be kept open un­til they were prop­erly re­set­tled.

“But it looks like gov­ern­ment has de­cided that we have to go. Where we will go? I don’t know. We will have to see on Tues­day,” he said.

Du­nia said they could not re­turn to their home­lands be­cause of “vi­o­lence”. The Burundian and Con­golese gov­ern­ments were also not able to repa­tri­ate them.

“We are stuck here. This is get­ting worse for us,” he said.

Con­golese na­tional Omba Mu­funda echoed Du­nia’s sen­ti­ments.

“We have been here for three months. We are scared to go back to the com­mu­nity. The xeno­pho­bia has stopped, but what if it hap­pens again, just like af­ter 2008? Peo­ple have hate in their hearts and this will hap­pen again when we go back to KwaMakhutha. All I want is to go back home now, but I can’t. I don’t know how this is go­ing to end,” he said.

Po­lice of­fi­cers on duty at the camp – which has been scaled down since most of the Malaw­ian and Zim­bab­wean refugees were bussed home more than a month ago – said they were un­sure what would hap­pen on Tues­day.

“The peo­ple don’t want to go and I’m not sure what our or­ders will be,” said an of­fi­cer, who can­not be named be­cause he is not al­lowed to talk to the media. “It is go­ing to be dif­fi­cult. We’re wait­ing to hear.”

The 4cm-long nee­dle that made An­netjie Pieterse ‘go mad with pain’


SANC­TU­ARY NO MORE This refugee camp erected on a sports field in Chatsworth is due to close this week, but many of the peo­ple stay­ing in it have nowhere else to go


PAINFUL GIFT An­netjie Pieterse with her Mother’s Day jersey

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