Thursday, December 10, 2009

A new wave of xenophobic violence in South Africa is gathering intensity, after six Zimbabwean nationals were severely injured in a vicious attack by a mob of local residents in Polokwane, South Africa.The six sustained serious facial and bodily injuries in the attack at the Westernburg settlement, while more than a 100 other Zimbabweans have since fled the area and are camped in an old stadium under heavy police guard.

The attack comes as more than 2000 Zimbabweans are still taking shelter at a temporary refugee camp near Cape Town, after they were driven from their homes in the farming town of De Doorns. Local residents stormed at least two informal settlements in the area, tearing and burning down shacks belonging to Zimbabweans, accusing them of "stealing our jobs." Local wine farmers in the area have reportedly been hiring mainly Zimbabwean casual labourers, because they are more willing to accept less pay for the hours they work compared to local South African workers. In retaliation, the local workers have been threatening the foreigners with violence for several weeks, threats that turned into action last month.

Braam Hanekom from the refugee rights group PASSOP explained that the situation at the refugee camp is a 'nightmare', saying the local government is deliberately refusing to aid the refugees there. He said food rations for the group have been cut, while only enough shelter for less than half the people there has been made available.

"People are hungry and exposed to the elements and are being treated worse than animals," Hanekom said "It is completely inhumane and there is no effort to help these people who have been traumatised," .

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