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Destitute, cold, hungry -- and beaten up

Niren Tolsi

A pregnant woman is beaten by guards as foreigners displaced by xenophobia stage a sit-in on the steps of Durban's City Hall.

A pregnant Congolese woman was beaten by private security guards hired by the eThekwini municipality on Thursday evening as foreign nationals displaced by xenophobia staged a sit-in on the steps of Durban’s City Hall.

Salema Moshondi, who is five-and-a-half months pregnant, was left vomiting on the floor after repeated blows to her body—including her stomach—by two security guards.

She was rushed to Addington Hospital where, according to her husband, Abbas Moshondi, she was in a stable condition. “The doctors have told me that she is OK but they are still working with her. That is all I know,” he said.

Moshondi was part of a group of about 100 foreign nationals, displaced by xenophobia, who were protesting against what they see as local and provincial government’s failure to act on their destitution.

Most of the foreigners had spent the past month living at community halls and churches around the city. But, since last week, these churches—which have run out of money and food—have been leaving people on the steps of the City Hall.

After putting up about 200 foreigners in a central business district lodge for a week, the eThekwini municipality has asked the displaced people to find alternative accommodation.

On Thursday, with neither mayor Obed Mlaba nor city manager Mike Sutcliffe in the city, local councillors appeared more intent on saving face rather than solving the problem.

African National Congress councillor Visvin Naidoo told leaders of the group to move to the nearby office of the department of social welfare where they would be helped, though the offices had already closed for the day.

The refugees, half of whom were children under 10 years old, were adamant that they would spend the bitterly cold night protesting outside. “We have no homes to go to, and we are not safe in the areas where we used to live. We will stay here because the government brought us here and they must help us,” said Amsi Wilondga.

While the stand-off between metro police and refugees continued, South African bystanders continued to hurl derision and abuse at the group, telling them to “Fuck off back to Zimbabwe and vote for Tsvangirai.”


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