‘They started throwing stones at my car,’ Kenyans in Johannesburg speak out


'They started throwing stones at my car,' Kenyans in Johannesburg speak out
Looters run off an alleged foreign-owned shop in Turffontein in Johannesburg on Monday. PHOTO | CNN

A section of Kenyans living in South Africa have expressed fear after the recent spate of xenophobic attacks on foreigners.

Speaking to Citizen Digital on phone, Simeon* who works at Gandhi square in Johannesburg, revealed that he was the only one who showed up at the office on Wednesday.

“Looks like most people stayed home… Most shops are also closed for fear of attacks and looting,” he said.

Simeon* painted a picture of a ghost town as videos shared showed hundreds of people marching through the Central Business District.

While some looted, torched or stole cars others broke into shops reportedly owned by foreigners.

South African authorities said five people have been killed in the attacks that have since been condemned by the President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Joe*, who lives in Gauteng, narrated to Citizen Digital how he escaped death narrowly on Tuesday evening.

He has lived in Johannesburg for 8 years and was driving home through a town adjacent to Pretoria, when vehicles moving in the opposite direction started headlight flashing.

Joe* intimated that he didn’t understand what they were trying to communicate as he had not broken any traffic rules.

He drove on but a few minutes later, a bunch of rioters appeared in front of him and blocked the road.

“They started throwing stones so I accelerated. My car windows were shattered and bits of glass cut me, but it could have been worse. I could have died,” he said.

Some of his friends have not been so lucky. Five of them from different countries died while six business associates lost their property to looters, some of whom razed their shops in the CBD.

“These attacks are targeting foreigners, none of us are safe. If they find you, they finish you,” said Joe*.

Mike* on the other hand narrated how children are unable to go to school in Pretoria. “Most of these children are being raised by single mothers who have now lost everything and now have nowhere to go,” he said.

Stephanie* is a Kenyan mother of two: she revealed that they do not feel safe to venture out.

According to her, rioters raided their neighbourhood on Monday, only looting shops belonging to their African counterparts.

“I am home and cant go to work. My two children can’t go to school because the rioters are blocking the roads or searching the vehicles. It is not safe,” she said.

“Black foreigners don’t even go for white collar jobs since they are regulated. It’s almost impossible to get one since there are processes. If they cannot find a suitable person nearby, they even have to advertise and have to ensure that that no citizen can fill the position before they give it to a foreigner,” Stephanie* added.

Dickens* has lived in Johannesburg for 10 years and works as doctor in one of the townships.

He told Citizen Digital that the situation is very unsettling since he has now been forced to leave his car at home for fear of being attacked.

He has chosen to commute for about 17km to get to work so that he doesn’t ‘ruffle any feathers’.

Several South Africans have since condemned the attacks with some using social media to express their disapproval.

“You are seen sending CVs to big corporations from foreigners because they give you high salaries, car allowance and medical aid… So all those people must leave your country so that you remain only South Africans without matrix, businesses, without money? Chasing away people that are making sure you can feed your families!” one South African woman said in a video seen on WhatsApp.

“These people have worked hard, they are people, they are human beings like us, Africans like us and yet we are the ones killing them!! Anyone who supports this xenophobia things should go out of South Africa. Most of us are rich because we also go out of South Africa… Today I am ashamed as a South African,” another South African said.

The Kenya High Commission has since issued a statement to Kenyans cautioning them to remain vigilant.

Kenyan envoy to South Africa Jean Kamau said that the commission has since reached out to the affected individuals.

“…Several  Kenyan citizens have been affected by the recent spate of violence through arson and physical violence as well as reported incidences of looting in various sections of Gauteng province,” her statement reads.

The commission says that they are in consultation with the South African Government to ensure that Kenyans remain safe.

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Story By Wangui Ngechu
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