I was crying inside the container while I was burning: Xenophobia victim

12 April 2015 - 13:55 By BONGANI MTHETHWA
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Ethiopian Tescma Marcus had been in South Africa for only four months. He came here to join his older brother run a spaza shop in Umlazi township, Durban.

On Friday night the 22-year-old became the latest victim of a spate of xenophobic attacks that has engulfed Durban.

Marcus died at Prince Mshiyeni Memorial Hospital in Umlazi at 8pm on Friday night with third-degree burns.

His brother Alex, 24, was also burnt when a mob locked them inside the container in which they had set up their shop and torched it.

His brother sustained burn wounds on his head, left arm and both legs.

Speaking from his hospital bed yesterday - unaware that his brother had died - Alex recounted how they were trapped inside the burning container for an hour.

It was only after Point Sindane, 67, the owner of the property on which their shop stood, in Umlazi's W section, managed to open the door with a crowbar that they were able to get out. Sindane used a hosepipe to extinguish the flames eating away at their bodies.

"My body is still burning," said Alex yesterday. "I was crying inside the container while I was burning. We were locked inside for almost an hour."

He said his brother had joined him only four months ago to help him run the spaza shop. Their goods, worth more than R20000, were burned to ashes inside the container.

"It's painful what they are doing to us. We are all Africans. My brother and I were just working - why kill us?" said Alex.

Despite the attack he is determined to remain in South Africa.


The brothers' story is similar to that of thousands of other foreigners - from Malawi, Ethiopia, Somalia, Mozambique, the DRC and Tanzania - who have been driven from their communities since the attacks started in Isipingo, south of Durban, three weeks ago.

The displaced families are living in transit camps at Isipingo Beach and in Chatsworth.

The attacks on foreigners have been linked to King Goodwill Zwelithini, who, in Pongola on March 20, urged the government to expel them.

He has denied saying this but in a recording he can clearly be heard saying: "We ask foreign nationals to pack their belongings and go back to their countries," as his audience cheers.

Yesterday, the king's spokesman, Prince Thulani Zulu, was livid because the attacks continue to be linked to the king's comments.

He was outraged by calls for Zwelithini to convene a public gathering at which he would "clarify" his remarks.

"The people who are dying are the king's people. It's very sad to the king that his people are killing each other. People in Pongola heard what the king said and people in Pongola are not fighting. These are just thugs. The king has never said that people must be killed," Zulu said.

This week hundreds of foreigners fled their homes in Chatsworth and Sydenham after coming under attack. Their properties were ransacked and looted on Tuesday night, and dozens of people were injured in Umlazi on Thursday night.

On Friday, there were attacks in the Unit 11 informal settlement in Chatsworth and in Umlazi resulting in dozens of families taking refuge at the local police station.

They were taken to a local football ground, where a temporary camp and marquees were erected to accommodate them.

SA Human Rights Commission spokesman Isaac Mangena said the alleged utterances of the king, and the comments last week by President Jacob Zuma's son, Edward, were being investigated.

The president's son reportedly told News24.com: "We need to be aware that, as a country, we are sitting on a ticking time bomb of them [foreigners] taking over the country. We can't rule out the possibility of a coup in the future."

On Wednesday church leaders protested outside Durban City Hall and called for a meeting with the Zulu king. They asked for the monarch to convene a public gathering and speak to his followers about the attacks on foreigners.

On Thursday, Zuma, speaking at an event to commemorate the death of Chris Hani 22 years ago, condemned the "creeping problem of what appears to be xenophobia in our country".

The president said not all foreigners in South Africa were in the country illegally and many contributed to the economy with their skills.


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