Thuso Khumalo, Anita Powell
JOHANNESBURG – Thousands of people marched through the South African city of Durban on Thursday to protest recent anti-immigrant violence that has left five people dead and thousands displaced.
Around 4,000 people marched through Durban, chanting “down with xenophobia” and “a United Africa” at an event attended by residents, students and local religious and political leaders.
In a suburb of Johannesburg, police fired rubber bullets and tear gas on Thursday to disperse a crowd of anti-immigrant protesters aiming to attack foreign-owned shops.
The violence first targeted shops owned by foreign nationals, largely from Somalia and Ethiopia. Now it’s spreading against all African foreigners, leaving many feeling terrified and hopeless.
Somalia national Ebrahim Mohamad Ali runs a coffee shop in Johannesburg. Memories of the 2008 xenophobic attacks in South Africa are still fresh in his mind. He lost his auto repair business – and his brother.
“They killed him in that robbery, for xenophobia. Me, I lost all my tools, all my money,” Mohamad said.
The anti-immigrant violence erupted again in recent weeks. Somali and Ethiopian nationals owning grocery shops in Soweto township were the first to be targeted. They were beaten and chased away by locals who took over their businesses.
Foreign shop owners in the port city of Durban were the next to be targeted, two weeks ago, and now all African foreign nationals are being told to pack up and leave. Thousands have been displaced and are living in makeshift camps.