Hundreds of Malawians leave South Africa after attacks

Dozens of buses used to carry citizens back to Malawi, amid fears xenophobic violence and intimidation would continue.

Officials appear keen on closing the remaining three camps in Pietermaritzburg, Chatsworth (pictured) and Isipingo [Azad Essa/Al Jazeera]
Officials appear keen on closing the remaining three camps in Pietermaritzburg, Chatsworth (pictured) and Isipingo [Azad Essa/Al Jazeera]

Durban, South Africa – More than 600 Malawi citizens have left South Africa for their home country after refusing to reintegrate into the local communities, more than three weeks after xenophobic attacks broke out in the city of Durban.

George Chilonga, deputy consul at Malawi’s consulate general, told Al Jazeera that 33 buses from the three camps of Isipingo, Chatsworth, and Phoenix had departed for Blantyre, Malawi on Tuesday.

 Meeting the refugees fleeing xenophobic violence

“This is our third trip this week, and we still require an estimated 30 more buses to transport the remainder,” Chilonga said.

More than 1,500 Malawians have already gone home, authorities said.

“By Wednesday the repatriation process would be complete,” Adam Ali, an NGO worker, said.

Closing the camps

The Phoenix camp, north of Durban was closed on Tuesday and officials appear keen on closing the remaining three camps in Pietermaritzburg, Chatsworth, and Isipingo.

But even as a calm descended over Durban and the surrounding areas after a week-long wave of feverish attacks on immigrants, foreign nationals say neither the intimidation nor the sporadic attacks have ended.

Many say that – crucially – the verbal abuse has not ended; that the atmosphere remained toxic.

One Malawian street vendor on Durban’s beach promenade said the marches and rallies against xenophobia have ended but the attacks on peoples’ homes and properties especially in townships had not.

These complaints resonate throughout the camp.

Mavis Kandulu, 20, said her husband Francois was killed last Sunday when he was returning to camp from work. Some of the displaced still travel to work during the day and return in the afternoon. But Francois’ body was found in three parts after it was hit by a train.

According to the police, his death was an accident, but Kandulu believes otherwise.

On Tuesday, his body was laid to rest in a local cemetery with other foreign nationals living in the camp donating to the funeral costs.

Repeated attempts by Al Jazeera to contact police services were unsuccessful. Police officials did, however, tell local media on Tuesday that there were no reports of violence over the weekend.

“All appearances are that the tensions have abated and that the situation has normalised in the province,” Thulani Zwane was quoted as having said.

‘Living in fear’

But Malawians in Chatsworth hoping to leave the camp for home said they had very little confidence in the police and that they had no intention of staying. They said returning to Malawi with just the clothes on their backs would bring them shame. But they said they had little choice.

The Listening Post: Covering xenophobia in South Africa

Late on Tuesday evening, around 1,000 Malawians bid farewell to family and friends lucky enough to secure a seat on one of the buses returning to Malawi.

“I am scared, and living in fear … I saw my friends dying here and I can’t stay here,” said 38-year-old Abdul Mkoloma.

“Look at me, I am like this. I don’t have anything. They took everything.”

Another Malawian, Fanny Chikopera, who had secured a seat on one of the buses leaving from Chatsworth, said she was happy to go back.

“Of course, there are no jobs, but I think we can do something back home,” Chikopera said.

On Monday, Navi Pillay, former UN high commissioner for human rights, was appointed to head a provincial task team. 

Source : Al Jazeera


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