'The wounds haven't healed'

When Lovemore Sibanda lost his single-room self-built house to a violent mob during last year’s xenophobic enmity in Alexandra his heart bled and he swore never to return to the township ever again.

It has been a year since the attacks, which started in Alexandra and spread to other parts of the country, and Sibanda’s reflection on the incident is an unexpectedly positive one. ‘I have moved on with my life now and I have forgiven those people, even though I don’t really know who they are,” said the 38-year-old Zimbabwean-born gardener.

After he was ordered to leave his keys and everything that he owned in the house, Sibanda went to stay with one of his employers for a while.
He later returned to his home, but it was not the same.

‘They had taken everything and the thought of buying new things and bringing them to that house haunted me, so I decided to sell it.”

He told his neighbours that he was leaving and asked if they knew of anyone who could buy his house. ‘They said they would take it, so I sold it to them for R3 000. I think the value of my house was much higher, but I was desperate to leave Alexandra and its roughness,” he said.

Sibanda had saved money for some time to buy building material and spent two months building his house. He said the wounds of losing something he worked so hard for haven’t healed. ‘I say I am over the whole situation because I have managed to buy all the other things that they took from me, but every time I think about my house I become angry. Then I calm myself down because being angry won’t get me anywhere.”

Sibanda is living with his uncle in Freedom Park, an informal settlement near Soweto, and said he trusts the area.

‘It’s nothing like Alexandra, it’s quiet and everybody minds their own business. Even when the xenophobic violence broke out throughout the country there was not a single violent incident there, so I feel safe.”

Some of his brothers still live in the poverty-stricken Alexandra Township, but Sibanda seldom visits his brothers because of bad memories.

‘They live there, but I can tell you that they are not happy because they cannot invest in anything lest the thugs start their thing again,” he said.

The attacks, according to Sibanda, are not dead, they are just resting.

He said he believes that the mentality of those who started the pandemonium has not changed.

‘I think everyone is excited about the 2010 World Cup right now, but I have a strong feeling that the violence will start again as soon as that is over”.

As to why the violence erupted, he said: ‘Who knows? All I can make of it is that those were uneducated and lazy people, who couldn’t stand seeing someone succeed from the little that they have.

‘I am still keeping on, working keeps me inspired because I work hard so that I can go back home to Zimbabwe in 2010. I believe that things will be better then and I can be with my family.”

Thembelihle Tshabalala

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