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Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Xenophobic violence strike erupts again

By Esther Lewis, Niemah Davids and Henri du Plessis
from IOL

Police were on alert on Wednesday after residents in Masiphumelele, near Ocean View, vented their anger after the murder of three-year-old Ayola Adonis by looting shops and clashing with immigrants on Tuesday night.

The latest outbreak of xenophobic violence was described by the UN High Commission for Refugees on Wednesday as a "major setback" for refugees.

Police had dispersed a mob with rubber bullets and arrested several young men after a dozen shops had been looted, said the Ocean View station commissioner, Superintendent Jayce Naidoo. Police confirmed four arrests.

Naidoo said the violence had erupted because the community believed a teenager who had been briefly detained over Ayola's murder was an immigrant.

In fact, the 18-year-old suspect who was taken in for questioning is a South African who lives in Masiphumelele.

Naidoo said the youths involved in the attacks were opportunists.

"There was a misunderstanding that a foreigner was arrested for this murder. But these youngsters are capitalising on this. It's plain vandalism," he said on Tuesday night.

Ayola's body was found on Monday in wetlands about 100 metres from her house.

It is believed that she might have been sexually assaulted.

The violence erupted at about 7.30pm, according to witnesses. Police fired rubber bullets to disperse the crowd, some of them armed.

But between 40 and 50 youths, in several groups across the settlement, had taken the opportunity to ransack shops, Naidoo said.

When the Cape Argus arrived on the scene, two boys were seen trying to make off with a microwave. They were arrested minutes later.

A Mozambican man who managed to escape the xenophobic attacks earlier in 2008 was injured during the attacks on Tuesday night. His identity is being withheld for the sake of his safety.

A group of boys ran into the man's yard. When he went outside to chase them away, a scuffle broke out and he was hit in the face.

It is not certain what he was struck with, but frantic neighbours waved down a patrol van and police then assisted him.

Close to midnight, police said five immigrants were hiding in the wetlands in an attempt to avoid further attacks.

While the situation was quelled quickly, the atmosphere remained tense. A helicopter and about 40 police, flying squad and Metro Police personnel patrolled the area throughout the night.

A witness who did not want to be identified said: "There were so many women with their children and some youngsters attacking the foreigners. It was terrible."

The woman's tenant is Malawian. His shoe repair business was looted and trashed and some of the contents of the shop strewn across the road.

The man, who now fears for his safety, has fled. His landlord has no idea where he is.

Organisers of a seven-day walk by a small group of people, intended to raise awareness of the dangers of xenophobia, are outraged that the city of Cape Town has denied them permission for it.

Nkwame Cedile, co-ordinator for the People's Health Movement (PHM) - one of the NGOs involved - said he was angry and concerned after the dity denied them permission to go ahead this Saturday.

Cedile said the seven-day event, which would have seen about 20 people walking to different areas and giving presentations at community halls because refugees were still being threatened in townships, had been planned months ago after xenophobic attacks in May.

City events co-ordinator Tyler Washington said the walk was classed as a gathering, for which the speaker's office processed applications.

The city was hosting several big events this weekend and emergency services were occupied.

- West Cape News

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