Voices of the For­eign­ers Wives

Grocott's Mail - - #BRING BACK OUR FRIENDS -

Agroup of women who are mar­ried to some of the busi­ness own­ers af­fected by last week's events sent out this heart­felt plea.

"We are all wives of men who came to South Africa from other coun­tries. There are more than a hun­dred of us. Our hus­bands come from Bangladesh, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Nige­ria, Pak­istan, Pales­tine, Sene­gal, So­ma­lia, Su­dan and Zim­babwe. Most of us are Mus­lims. We pray at the Mosque on the univer­sity cam­pus. Peo­ple call us ‘the kwarra wives’.

Our hus­bands came to South Africa look­ing for a bet­ter life. They are now South Africans. They have IDs and pass­ports. They have the right to vote. Our hus­bands came here for a bet­ter life and they work here and have fam­i­lies here. But they are treated like dogs. Their lives count less than a packet of chips.

For years we have faced se­ri­ous dis­crim­i­na­tion, ha­rass­ment and abuse from small minded peo­ple be­cause we are mar­ried to men born in other coun­tries and be­cause most of us have con­verted to Is­lam. When some men see us in the streets wear­ing Is­lamic cloth­ing they ask us why we are mar­ried to the ‘kwar­ras’. They swear at us. Some of the women call us bitches and pros­ti­tutes. Some of our chil­dren are in Pak­istan. Some peo­ple say that we sold our chil­dren – but we sent them to Pak­istan for their own safety.

We are in­volved in busi­ness with our hus­bands. The busi­nesses are ours too. Many of us have been robbed. Some peo­ple have been killed in th­ese rob­beries. When the rob­beries hap­pen we are told that we are also ‘kwar­ras’ now. Once you are a ‘kwarra’ it seems that you can be freely robbed and even killed in this coun­try.

The at­tacks on us and on our shops started on the 21 Oc­to­ber.

When the at­tacks started some of us were able to de­fend our shops our­selves. But in most cases this was not pos­si­ble. The at­tacks be­gan in Bathurst Street and then moved to Beau­fort Street and into the lo­ca­tion. Some South Africans tried to sup­port us but most shops were looted.

They were not just steal­ing. Some­times the shops were van­dalised. Some shops have been burnt. The loot­ing was still hap­pen­ing when we met to pre­pare this state­ment. More than 300 hun­dred shops have been looted and de­stroyed. More than five hun­dred peo­ple have had to leave their homes.

Many of us were stay­ing be­hind our shops. When the at­tack­ers fin­ished with our shops they came into our homes and took every­thing.

They took our TVs, our beds, our clothes, even our un­der­wear. They left us with noth­ing. We don’t even have a spoon. They looked for our hus­band’s pass­ports and tore them up. They made the tear­ing up of the pass­ports some­thing that ev­ery­one could see. They did it out­side on the roads.

We built the shops from scratch. Who will help us? Some of us don’t even have shoes? Who will help us to raise our kids?

Some of us had to run from the school be­cause they wanted to hurt our chil­dren. Four of our chil­dren were beaten. None of our chil­dren are in school any­more. Some of the chil­dren are now sick af­ter be­ing in the rain for hours on 21 Oc­to­ber. They can’t play out­side be­cause it is not safe. They are trau­ma­tised. We have to hide our chil­dren’s hair un­der big hats so that they can’t be recog­nised.

It’s not about the killings any­more. It’s about the busi­ness. The peo­ple or­gan­is­ing this say that the ‘kwar­ras’ came here to take their busi­ness and that the ‘kwar­ras’ ‘chose all the beau­ti­ful women’.

Our hus­bands had to flee the town on 21 Oc­to­ber. They are still stay­ing out­side of the town. Many of us haven’t seen them since then. We are stay­ing with friends and fam­i­lies. Some of our chil­dren have been sent to the farms.

Be­fore he went to pri­son Nel­son Man­dela was in Al­ge­ria. Al­ge­ria is a Mus­lim coun­try. Yet we as Mus­lims are now seen as peo­ple who can’t be South Africans.

We are not go­ing any­where. We are very scared about what is go­ing to hap­pen when we re­open the shops. But make no

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