By Emmanuel Kafe
For most Africans, the rainbow nation of South Africa is a land of opportunity.
The country, which boasts of the richest gold field in the world, the Witwatersrand Basin, holds promises of milk and honey for both fortune seekers and migrant workers.
But not all is at it seems as one Zimbabwean, Munyaradzi Ngwena, recently discovered.
Ngwena had visited his brother to see for himself the promised “milk and honey”.
Ngwena was in Johannesburg’s Turffontein Township when the recent purge of foreigners erupted on September 1.
“We were having lunch with my brother and it looked like any other normal day until we heard distant noises and some gunshots, something that is common in South Africa. That is why the violence caught us unaware,” he said.
He said the over 100-strong mob entered their rooms and chased people out, taking most of their belongings.
“They were saying ‘we want cash, you are taking our jobs’. I had never seen such cruelty,” he said.
Later that day, Ngwena said the mob moved to the shops.
“We heard gunshots and went outside to look. Then we saw a man firing warning shots to scare away the thugs that wanted to ransack his small corner shop,” he said.
According to Ngwena, protesters who carried metal rods, ropes, knives, knobkerries and machetes marched through the townships shouting that all foreigners should leave or die.
Ngwena said they were advised by the police to temporarily evacuate the area and move to nearby relatives or friends.
“The protesters had promised that they would come back. We were lucky to still have our passports and some cash. We ran for dear life,” he said.
On the streets, he came face-to-face with the pandemonium caused by the violence as women and children were running for the nearest safe havens.
Said Ngwena: “Johannesburg’s peripheries has no shortage of neighbourhoods where the poor put together shacks from corrugated metal and wood planks. We tried to hide there but it did not work. Protesters demanded that all foreigners should leave their area or die.”
In the chaos, Ngwena and his brother got separated.
However, he continued running with the hope of getting transport that would take him out of the danger areas.
“I encountered a small group and they shouted that ‘there’s one of them, catch him and teach him a lesson’. Somehow I managed to escape,” he recounted.
When he was finally reunited with his brother at a relative’s place in central Johannesburg, Ngwena was already trying to figure out how he would make it back home. “I left for Johannesburg Park Station the following morning – luckily without a scratch. If it was not for God, it would have been a different story today,” he said
Ngwena has vowed that he will never return to South Africa.
His brother, who had secured a job there, is also planning to come back home.
“He no longer feels safe, nobody is safe there,” he said.
Ngwena and his brother are not the only ones who feel this way.
Monica Mutesva, a cross border trader who spoke to this publication, said she was not taking any chances.
“I was caught up in the violence of 2008. This time I do not want to be a victim again,” she said.
Following the latest surge of attacks on businesses and homes, Nigeria has flown hundreds of its citizens back home.
Zimbabwe is also in the process of evacuating about 171 citizens that have registered with the authorities. The Sunday Mail