The Stranger among us

He came here to save his life. “You can make it here”, he was told. So he set up a little tuck-shop, what they call Spaza shops here, selling small things. Sure enough, with what he earned, he could make a living and send some money home to his family.

There are many like him in neighborhoods around the country. Mofolo, Soweto, a place with a fair number of Somalis, not far from where he lives in Kya Sands to the north of Johannesburg. Mozambicans, Malawians, Congolese, Ethiopians, Nigerians, this place has become a place for refuge for a huge number of Africans fleeing their countries for reasons that include war, famine, and failing economies. South Africa is actually a country where one could dream of improving his lot.

But what happens when the economy of the place you run to does not support the people who have a national entitlement to it? When over 40% of South Africans find themselves unemployed and struggling? Many of them living in shanty towns with, alongside foreigners like him. When they question themselves about how to fix things, they look first to find the stranger among them.

“They are stealing our jobs”, they say. He wants to point out the foreigners are often either self-employed, or working jobs that the locals themselves don’t want. Wants to say that in the cases where foreigners get well paid jobs they are often well qualified. That is to say that that job is unlikely to go to the local who does not have the adequate skills.

He shudders as he remembers the image of the Mozambican Ernesto Alfabeto Nhamuave who was burnt alive, wrapped in his own blankets, back in the attacks of 2008. “The flaming man”, they called him. Apparently someone has been burnt in the same manner recently. Except they use the necklacing method now. They put a car tire around you and doused in a flammable liquid, they set you alight. It is a slow painful death that can take up to twenty minutes.

There have been attacks in Isipingo, Chatsworth, Umlazi, KwaMashu and Sydenham all areas in Durban. Six people have been killed. The violence has spread here to Joburg too. Last night he was in Jeppestown, meeting with his brother in law and discussing whether or not they should leave. They were mobs in the street, waving their knives and machetes, throwing stones and yelling “The foreigners must leave.”

There have apparently been transit camps set up for those who have fled their homes in fear of harm to their lives. But where are they are in transit to? Apparently the Malawian government has offered to repatriate its people. Zimbabwe is making plans. But has the situation they fled from in their native country changed for the better? No, he shall remain here. There is nothing for him at home.

His people have a saying “Kusiri kufa ndekupi?” Literally, “Which is not death?”


One comment on “The Stranger among us

  1. prim1eve says:

    Wonderful piece and I enjoyed reading it!

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