Durban – President Jacob Zuma was cheered and jeered as he attempted to calm xenophobic tensions during a quick whirlwind visit of a refugee camp in Durban.
Zuma was cheered when he told the hundreds of refugees encamped on a sports field in the Westcliff area of Durban’s Chatsworth suburb that the government would help them to address their concerns, whether it was to stay in the country or to return home.
“We are not saying to you go away as government. It is yourselves who are saying that you need to be helped to go home,” he said.
When he arrived, a large crowd quickly gathered and started chanting: “Too late. We go home.”
Zuma initially spoke in Zulu before speaking in English.
“We are calling on all South Africans to participate in helping to make the life better for you [the refugees].”
At this point the crowd started shouting “Go Home”.
Zuma said that the government would address the violence against foreigners.
“It is not every South African who is saying you must go away. Not at all. It is a very small number of people who say so.”
Those listening appeared not to agree with him and started jeering and again shouting “We Go Home”.
Julia Maphumo, a Zimbabwean from Harare, said afterwards that it did not matter what Zuma said, she wanted to go home.
“I want to go away. He [Zuma] was too late. They took everything from me. They took my passport, my things and my money. I don’t even have R100. It’s too late to apologise,” said Maphumo. She said she had been in the country for three months when she was attacked.
Zuma then went to Umlazi’s Mega City Mall where he spoke to locals asking them to refrain from violence.
A man who identified himself as Kay Mlitwe said he did not agree with the attacks. “But it is better that those without permits go home. They should not be allowed [here].”
Zuma was expected to visit another refugee camp housing foreigners at Durban’s Isipingo Beach area.
By: Giordano Stolley