Hostel residents march against foreigners as Buthelezi appeals for peace

Protesting hostel dwellers took to the streets on Sunday stating that they want foreign nationals to leave.
Protesting hostel dwellers took to the streets on Sunday stating that they want foreign nationals to leave.
Image: Penwell Dlamini

IFP president emeritus Mangosuthu Buthelezi on Sunday battled to quell tensions in Johannesburg as he spoke out against xenophobic violence.

Sections of the crowd at the gathering in Jeppestown walked out as he addressed them.

Buthelezi delivered his speech despite the disruption.

According to a prepared speech, the veteran politician told them: "Looting and destruction of property is a crime. Full stop. Assault is always wrong."

In contrast to the message he was delivering, protesters from various hostels in eastern Johannesburg had marched along Jules Street earlier on Sunday. Carrying weapons, including knobkerries, the men sang: "Foreigners must go back to where they came from".

On Tuesday, police minister Bheki Cele also met community leaders and business owners in Jeppestown in a bid to calm tensions, following the looting of mostly foreign-owned shops that began in the area last weekend.

Violence quickly spread to other areas in Gauteng province, causing havoc for police and government.

The group of hostel dwellers has maintained it wants foreign nationals to leave.

Siphiwe Mhlongo, chair of hostel headmen (izinduna) in Gauteng, who spoke to Sowetan ahead of Buthelezi's address, said: "We are not happy with how government has tried to resolve the problems that the country is facing. The government must come speak to the people and explain what it is going to do with the foreign nationals who are here illegally."

He said the residents were angry about jobs allegedly being taken by foreign nationals, unhappy about foreigner involvement in drug dealing and that free government housing is being provided to foreigners.

"Everyone who is in SA has that feeling that foreign nationals must go back home. But we don't say foreign nationals must be beaten up; we are leaders."

In his prepared speech, Buthelezi said: "I understand the tensions, the complaints and the anger ... In every family there are quarrels and squabbles. But the way we are behaving is shooting ourselves in the foot. We are making the name SA a swear word on the continent."