South Africa braced for violence after World Cup finals
Published 02/07/2010 | 05:00
SOUTH AFRICA is bracing itself for a wave of violence after the World Cup as police numbers are scaled down and anger towards foreigners increases among the country's poorest people.
Experts have warned that in the country's most deprived areas, there is renewed and growing resentment towards immigrants, who are perceived as taking scarce jobs and resources.
There is widespread anger too about the 33bn rand (€3.5bn) poured into hosting Africa's first football World Cup while millions of people remain in poverty.
Although an extra 40,000 police officers helped to ensure so far that the tournament has passed off smoothly with few incidents of violent crime, it is unlikely the numbers can be maintained.
Despite government appeals for calm and pledges that police will remain on "high alert" for trouble, many foreigners say they no longer feel safe.
Leaflets are being delivered door-to-door in some areas, urging action against immigrants from poor countries such as Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi.
In Alexandra, a township in Johannesburg, some residents openly admitted that they wanted other Africans out of the country -- a sentiment that saw more than 60 people killed and 700 injured in May 2008, when xenophobic attacks spread around the country. One 35-year-old Zimbabwean woman, who came to South Africa when she was 19 and works as a cleaner in Johannesburg's affluent northern suburbs to support her two children, said she had been told to leave by July 12, the day after the World Cup final.
"Even if you have a permit, it makes no difference. They won't give you the time to show it before they hurt you," she said. "These people are my neighbours but they hate me. It is not right."
According to the Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa, the threats towards migrants are made not just by neighbours but by police officers, doctors, nurses and social workers.
The group reported one case in which a woman went to a clinic to get her baby immunised and was told by a nurse: "Go back to your country. After June there will be no more foreigners in this country. You will all die."
In some areas, there have been attacks already. In November, 3,000 mostly Zimbabwean migrants were moved into a refugee camp after they were forced out of townships to the east of Cape Town.
There are now thought to be just 280 people living in the camp as refugees, threatened with further violence by locals, took up the government's offer of repatriation and returned to Zimbabwe. (© Daily Telegraph, London)