Slice of life: ‘South Africans beat us, burn us’

We are not happy to be here because none of them [South Africans] want us in this country. (David Harrison/M&G)

We are not happy to be here because none of them [South Africans] want us in this country. (David Harrison/M&G)

There was a xenophobic attack in Delft, some of my brothers’ places where they worked were burnt down. We’ve been abused so many times since our childhood until now as grown-ups by South Africans — beating us, burning us with tyres, chasing us.

South Africans are not scared to tell us that even the president doesn’t want us here; that we should go back to where we belong.

We are not happy to be here because none of them [South Africans] want us in this country.

It’s been so many years that we’ve been tolerating this and that’s why we had to stand together and planned to go the UN office in town to show them we really need help, because President [Cyril] Ramaphosa is doing nothing.

Since being here we’ve not been allowed to use the toilets around the UN offices. We’ve had to go back down to the train station to use the toilets there.
We’ve been getting clean water from some of the hotels nearby for the kids to drink.

There are so many kids here. Even some newborns [are] sleeping on the floor. Some are getting sick, vomiting, getting diarrhoea; it’s so cold.

We have been threatened by some South Africans, who came in and started fighting, shouting at us that we were blocking the way and that we should go home. The police have also told us to leave because it’s a busy office area.

All we want is to go to another country where we’re going to be safe with our families, our children.

Just anywhere safe, but not South Africa.” — As told to David Harrison by Sherizadi Niyonzima, 22, who with her 18-month-old daughter and hundreds of other refugees, had been sitting outside the United Nations High Commission for Refugees office in St George’s Mall in Cape Town for more than a week, until they were forcibly removed by the police on Wednesday.

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