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Mon Aug 29 21:50:36 SAST 2016

Kill thy neighbour: Alex attack brings home SA's shame

BEAUREGARD TROMP, NATHI OLIFANT and MATTHEW SAVIDES | 19 April, 2015 09:02

The brutality of South Africans turning on their neighbours was brought home yesterday morning as people stood by while a Mozambican man was stalked, stabbed and killed as he lay in township filth, pleading for his life.

His attackers had followed him down a street, keeping their prey at arm's length, waiting for an opening to land the fatal blow.

They circled him as, on his knees amid rubbish, he pleaded for mercy.

In those moments, Emmanuel Sithole was no longer a man, a neighbour, a human being. The intensity on his attackers' faces showed that he had become a thing to kill - each thrust aimed with ferocity.

Around the macabre scene - where children had played and adults had strolled moments before - some now held their hands to their mouths in horror. Others stood seemingly detached, as if watching a movie.

The attack on Sithole lasted about two minutes.

Alexandra township, next door to Sandton, had just emerged from a night of violent unrest, as had townships around South Africa.

In Soweto on Friday night, metro police rescued two South Africans apprehended by locals as they tried to break into a Pakistani-owned shop. They had already been doused with petrol when they were rescued.

 

In Arkwright Avenue, Alexandra, Sithole had no saviours. Instead, it took his attackers less than an hour - from the time of his attack to his death - to rob a Mozambican family of a brother, a son, a breadwinner.

Shortly before 8am yesterday morning, Sithole was walking along Second Avenue in Alexandra when he was attacked by one man, then another and then a third, armed with a wrench and knives. Other men, one armed with a spade and another reaching into his pocket, hesitated on the periphery, seemingly ready to join the ambush.

A man in a black leather jacket urged the attackers to stop.

Sithole held up his hands, pleading, trying to fend off the blows, but the monkey wrench struck, dropping him to the ground.

Then came the okapi knife, striking home and opening his chest.

He walked until he could go no further, sitting defeated in a gutter on Arkwright Avenue. One of the knives had pierced his heart. The Sunday Times rushed him to Edenvale Hospital, where he died.

READ MORE: The brutal death of Emmanuel Sithole

Sithole's death brings to seven the number of those who have died since the xenophobic violence broke out on March 30 in Isipingo, south of Durban.

President Jacob Zuma, who had been due to leave yesterday on a week-long state visit to Indonesia, cancelled his trip after criticism of it erupted on social media. The Presidency said Zuma had cancelled the trip to "attend to matters at home relating to the attacks on foreign nationals".

He visited a transit camp for displaced foreign nationals in Chatsworth, Durban, and announced plans for him and his cabinet to hold "stakeholder outreach programmes" this week.

Zuma said his government was ready to deploy the army if the situation so demanded.

"We will fix the situation ... it won't take long. We are saying we want to protect lives and end the violence because we are against it. We are doing all that we can to protect lives. That's why we have the police all over the place, if needs we will bring out the army," said Zuma, drawing boos from the crowd.

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Condemnation

The Malawian and Mozambican governments have ferried busloads of their citizens away from Durban.

This week fellow African countries strongly condemned the attacks and demanded firm action from the South African government.

Sithole's killing yesterday came a day after international relations minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, during a meeting with African ambassadors, assured them that all necessary measures had been put in place to avoid further loss of life.

The other six killings took place around Durban and claimed the lives of three South Africans and three foreigners.

Police have made arrests in only the South African killings; no arrest has been made in connection with the deaths of the foreigners.

South Africa's image has taken a hit, with other African countries either calling for a boycott of South African companies on the continent or the expulsion of South Africans working in those countries.

Speaking at Zimbabwe's 35th independence celebration event in Harare yesterday, President Robert Mugabe described the xenophobic attacks as "horrible". Mugabe is also the chairman of SADC and the African Union.

"We say, on behalf of SADC and indeed on behalf of the AU that [this] must never happen again. Never happen again in South Africa or any other country," said Mugabe.

It has also been reported that terrorist group Boko Haram has issued a warning against South Africa, but the veracity of the report could not be verified.

Sasol has withdrawn South African employees from its Mozambican plant after receiving threats.

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The Lebombo border post between South Africa and Mozambique was reopened on Friday afternoon after it was closed for a short while after trucks with South African registration numbers were stoned.

Yesterday, a group of displaced foreigners boarded buses in Durban to return to their home countries. Two buses bound for Malawi left Isipingo yesterday.

Henry Mwambimba, 29, from Lilongwe, Malawi, vowed never to return to South Africa.

"After six years in South Africa I had hoped to return home a better man. But this is the only thing I have," Mwambimba said, pointing to a bag with clothes.

"I was never beaten up but I witnessed the violence. It destroyed my chicken tikka business."

Officials from the Department of Home Affairs had their hands full as the two buses organised could not accommodate all of the Malawians who wished to return home. A group of Mozambican citizens left on Friday.

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This week, the violence against foreign nationals began an insidious spread across South Africa.

Eastern Cape police thwarted an arson attack in Cala, where a Zimbabwean came under attack after he allegedly killed his South African girlfriend.

Violence also broke out in Jeppe, Johannesburg.

Inciting Violence

Amid it all, Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini - who is accused of inciting the xenophobic violence - finally buckled under pressure to break his silence since his utterances two weeks ago to the effect that foreign nationals should be expelled from South Africa.

But when he addresses his imbizo today, the Zulu monarch will not be apologising. Instead, the king is expected to condemn the violence and call for calm.

But King Goodwill, who has spurned the South African Human Rights Commission, has been feeling the pressure. On Wednesday morning, he checked in to Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital for an unscheduled appointment, complaining of chest pains. He left a few hours later.

On Monday, he met government ministers Malusi Gigaba of home affairs, David Mahlobo of state security and Nathi Nhleko of police. The three ministers conveyed a message from the ANC and Zuma, asking him to either apologise or publicly denounce the violence.

At the meeting, Gigaba apologised to the king and "clarified" his earlier comments condemning irresponsible leaders for inciting violence, saying they were not directed at him.

But the king turned down the suggestion to lead an anti-xenophobia march in the Durban city centre on Thursday. Apparently he told the ministers of his plan to call an imbizo, which was eventually announced by KwaZulu-Natal premier Senzo Mchunu on Friday.

On the same day that the king met with the ministers, he gave an audience to Phumlani Mfeka, leader of the divisive and abusive anti-Indian grouping Mazibuye Africa Forum.

The meeting, which Mfeka and his colleagues bragged about on social networks, was to convince the king to call the imbizo.

The Human Rights Commission has been trying, without success, to set up a meeting with the king.

An insider said commission chairman Lawrence Mushwana had contacted the Royal Household Trust, which handles the king's affairs - but no response was forthcoming.

"We didn't win [with setting up a meeting]. We made a number of phone calls. They stood us up," said the insider.

zulu king.JPG

The ANC and its government has come in for much criticism for the manner in which the falling out with the king has been handled. Instead of condemning him, the party has chosen to defend him.

Nhleko, his most vocal defender, insisted that the king's comments were misrepresented by the media.

But while there is unhappiness within the ANC, no leader including Zuma has been bold enough to speak out against King Goodwill.

"Surely if the [ANC] leadership was not too preoccupied with the need not to offend the king, they would have told him in no uncertain terms that he is wrong. They would send a person much more senior than Malusi to deliver the message," said an ANC insider.

But the days of the king making reckless public statements could soon be over as the provincial government plans to exercise tight control over his written and spoken speeches.

Thulasizwe Buthelezi, the newly appointed chairman of the Royal Household Trust, said it was looking for a new speechwriter for the king and would ensure that "all communication, written and spoken, will be aligned such that it enhances the king's image".

"We are mindful that the new board comes at a time when the king's image has taken a huge blow due to the wave of xenophobic violence.

"We are starting on the back foot because we need to ensure that the king is a unifying figure. We need to rebuild his image," he said.

"The Zulu monarch cannot be about the buying of Mercedes-Benzes, weddings and a tax gobbler. He should be a centre of the pride and heritage of the Zulu Kingdom, that's what we intend dealing with," he said.

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What they said...

March 21: King Goodwill Zwelithini in Pongola: "As I speak, you find [foreigners] unpleasant goods hanging all over our shops, they soil our streets. We cannot even recognise which shop is which ... there are foreigners everywhere.

"We ask foreign nationals to pack their belongings and go back to their countries."

April 10: Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba said: "South Africa is not against Africans.

"I'm appealing to all leaders to stop making statements that instigate or condone attacks against foreign nationals. "All our leaders in the country have a responsibility to use words to build and not destroy."

April 10: Police Minister Nathi Nhleko defended the king, saying he was misquoted. He said: "His context was [that] our borders were porous, people were walking in and out without any documentation. If we continue to allow that situation, we'll end up not being able to trace them and that contributes to the escalation of crime."

April 11: King Goodwill said: "I ask political leaders that we should respect each other. Democracy should not make them feel like demigods. Although everyone has a right to comment about [kingship], I will not allow myself to be insulted by people who think because of five years which was given to them at the mercy of voters, they are now demigods who should be praised.

"I wish that politicians who comment on what I said in Pongola should do so with knowledge. They should ask Police Minister Nhleko about what I had said, as I was there on his invitation. A person should not comment just because he is standing in front of microphones and cameras."

 

trompb@sundaytimes.co.za, olifantn@sundaytimes.co.za, savidesm@sundaytimes.co.za

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