Thupeyo Muleya Beitbridge Bureau
Xenophobia motivated attacks have resurfaced in Liphalale town in South Africa’s Limpopo province where five shops, two houses and two vehicles belonging to Zimbabweans were burnt on Thursday night.
The incident has raised fears of the return of the chaotic situation where 62 foreigners were brutally killed and thousands others displaced during similar attacks in May 2008.
Sources in the coal mining town of Liphalale said tensions were still high in Maropong suburb yesterday amid reports that the locals were planning another onslaught on Zimbabweans.
Tensions had been high since April 16 when a number of Zimbabweans living in the area were attacked by South Africans.
The volatile situation in Liphalale has forced Zimbabweans living in that area to form a committee to engage the local community and policy makers on the repeated attacks.
The committee’s organising secretary Mr Jefta Mararike, who is also a victim of the attacks, said in a telephone interview yesterday that the situation was still tense.
“We are living under constant fear,” he said. “You will note that this is a second incident following the burning down of five shops belonging to Zimbabweans in May this year. However, no people were injured in both incidents.
“This time I was a victim after they burnt down my house and tuck-shop, destroying property worth over R20 000.”
Mr Mararike said they had since notified the Zimbabwean Embassy in that country about the incident and urged the South African police to prevent such attacks.
He said despite getting assurance from the police and residents that they would live in peace, Zimbabweans in the area were on high alert for imminent attacks.
Some living in the town, Mr Mararike said, had started relocating to other towns in fear for their lives.
“The police have promised to act on the matter though they seem too reluctant to take any meaningful action,” he said.
Mr Mararike said among the vehicles that were burnt were a Ford Bantam and a Nissan pick-up belonging to a Zimbabwean businessman.
A Liphalale police spokesperson who identified himself only as Warrant Officer Mokoena said he could not answer questions from The Herald yesterday.
Zimbabwe’s Consular General to South Africa Mr Godfrey Magwenzi said in a telephone interview that he was still assessing the situation together with South African police.
“We are still assessing the situation on the ground and see how best we can engage our host government over the issues,” he said. “We strongly believe that an amicable solution will be arrived at the earliest possible time.”
Zimbabweans living in South Africa, especially Limpopo and Gauteng provinces have been on the receiving end of xenophobia motivated attacks.
In May, five shops belonging to Zimbabweans were razed down to ashes by a mob in Marapong suburb in the same town.
It has since been established that the Liphalale Business Forum which operates small to medium enterprises is behind the onslaught on Zimbabweans whom they accuse of putting them out of business and of fanning crime in the area.
In June 2011, hundreds of Zimbabweans living in Seshego Township in Polokwane City were left homeless following similar attacks by a mob which also fatally stoned one of them.
In May, two Zimbabwean artists were shot dead by a Somali businessman in Diepsloot suburb, Johannesburg area.