‘Fake news’ sets off mob’s re­venge spree

For­eign­ers tar­geted over ab­duc­tion ru­mours

Sunday Times - - NEWS - JEFF WICKS and NATHI OLIFANT

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

Pictures: JACKIE CLAUSEN

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.