‘Fake news’ sets off mob’s revenge spree
Foreigners targeted over abduction rumours
THE happy lives that teachers Bhekumenzi and Nonhlanhla Dorning once knew is irretrievable, lost to a social media hoax believed to have fuelled the storm that prompted xenophobic attacks in Durban’s KwaMashu township this week.
The Dornings, both teachers in the township, were named in a fake post that labelled them child abductors.
While anti-immigrant sentiment simmers in side streets and alleys of the township, the couple are living in fear in their home in neighbouring Avoca.
The post, complete with their pictures and home address, reads: “This man has been confirmed to [be] the mastermind behind the trading of body parts in Durban . . .
“Our children are not safe please help keep these two away from the innocent children.”
While locking the couple’s security gate, Bhekumenzi said: “I had no idea that something so bad was going to happen to my family.”
The couple have both been teaching for 16 years.
They grew up in KwaMashu before moving into their family home in Avoca.
They have been unable to return to school and aren’t sure when it will be safe for them to go back to work.
“When all this violence broke out I could see the crowds burning tyres in the road and I had to drive through the mobs while trying to hide my face,” Bhekumenzi said.
“I would have been in trouble if they recognised me . . . they would have killed me in the street. ”
He said that at a community meeting in their neighbourhood, some people had wanted to torch his home.
“We had to flee. If my neighbours didn’t support me and stand up to them, we would not be here today. This house would have been razed.” FEARFUL: Bhekumenzi and Nonhalahla Dorning, who live in fear after baseless abduction claims
Looting and attacks in KwaMashu on Monday prompted police to place the township on lockdown as they came under attack from mobs trying to pillage and burn — purported retribution for foreigners accused of child abductions.
Police rubbished claims that children had disappeared, and urged residents to halt the spread of “fake news”.
Spokesman Brigadier Jay Naicker said that in the past six months five children had been reported missing but all had been returned safely to their families.
Anele Ngcobo, 17, claims she came face to face with kidnappers in L Section in the township on Monday.
Her mother, Busi Ngcobo, said that her daughter had been on her way to school when “she was nearly abducted”.
Recounting what had happened, Busi said that while her daughter was walking to Isibonelo High School, a white VW Golf with tinted windows had stopped and some men pounced on her and injected her with a mystery substance.
“She managed to fight [them] off and escaped,” she said.
They were awaiting results of tests to see what the substance was.
Naicker said the police were investigating the matter and had been unable to confirm any kidnappings or abductions perpetrated by foreigners.
While the situation is still tense, Somali Abu, who did not want his surname published, is doubtful about ever returning to KwaMashu, an area that had become his home away from home.
He does not want anyone to know where he is after escaping the burning township on Tuesday in the violence driven mainly by allegations of child trafficking.
Abu said he had lived in F Section for five years, running a small shop in the Nkwalini General Dealer’s building, on the corner of Mqanduli and Mncube roads.
“It’s not violence. It’s xenophobia. It’s meant against us,” he said in broken Zulu.
Daniel Dunia of the Africa Solidarity Network, which represents foreigners in South Africa, said the unrest was xenophobia.
“Why, when children are abducted by foreign nationals, do you then attack shop owners? And why spare the local shop owners and only attack the foreigners?”
Lieutenant-Colonel Thulani Zwane said two people had been arrested for public violence following the unrest in KwaMashu and that there was a strong police presence in the area to prevent any further attacks.
TAKING STOCK: A child surveys the gutted interior of the Amazambane supermarket in KwaMashu after a mob of looters had broken into it and carried off the stock
RANSACKED: This Zimbabwean-run shop in KwaMashu was looted and damaged on Monday night. The property is owned by a South African
MOB JUSTICE: Children and adults in KwaMashu take to the streets in protest following social media rumours that foreigners were abducting children