Voices of the Foreigners Wives
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