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Violence aimed at foreigners was criminal, not xenophobic, says Malawi High Commission

29 March 2019 - 17:14 By MATTHEW SAVIDES
A paramedic working with the Mayville community policing forum helps a foreign national who was hurt during violence on Tuesday in Sydenham, Durban.
A paramedic working with the Mayville community policing forum helps a foreign national who was hurt during violence on Tuesday in Sydenham, Durban.
Image: Imtiaaz Syed

The eThekwini municipality and the Malawi High Commission have jointly denied that recent violence aimed at foreign nationals in Durban was xenophobic – stating, instead, that it was 'criminally motivated'.

This week, foreign nationals were targeted in sporadic outbreaks of violence in the Sydenham and Overport areas of the city. In at least two cases, they were forced to seek refuge at local police stations.

But on Friday, the eThekwini council and the Malawi High Commission denied the violence was xenophobic in nature.

"Both the municipality and the Malawian High Commission are in agreement that the incidents that led to Malawians nationals being chased out of their homes are not xenophobia but were criminally motivated as their belonging were stolen by the angry mob," the municipality said in a statement.

The statement added that the council and the commission were "working tirelessly" to integrate the foreign nationals -  who were predominantly of Malawian decent - back to their communities.

eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede issued a stern warning to leaders of all political parties to desist from making populist statements that inflame xenophobia or any other form of discrimination.

"No African is a foreigner in Africa and, as the municipality, we are committed to working together with organisations representing immigrants and civil society formations to deal with issues that cause tension between and among our people. During profiling, we discovered that most African immigrants are highly skilled artisans and we are looking at partnering with them in creating skills transfer and mentorship programmes that will target the youth," she said.

Gumede added that it had emerged during two meetings held with residents of Burnwood informal settlements – where attacks took place on Tuesday morning - that the majority of residents were ready to welcome back the Malawian nationals.

"It was also agreed during these meetings that leaders of foreign nationals should form part of community development forums in the area and the displaced foreign nationals should go back to their homes within the next 48 hours.

"However, a follow-up meeting will be held soon between the municipality, the Malawian High Commission and community of Burnwood informal settlement to welcome back the Malawian nationals," said Gumede.

Acting high commissioner to Malawi Gloria Bamusi, in praising the municipality, also requested that police respond rapidly to similar incidents.

"We appeal to law enforcement agencies to respond rapidly whenever such instances occur. We also call for the perpetrators to be brought to book. We will work with the municipality to integrate our people back to the communities and make necessary arrangements for those who want to go back home to Malawi," said Bamusi.