Members of a Somali community in Johannesburg charge the police fired on them during the course of fighting in Gauteng. At least 42 people have been killed and over 17,000 displaced since violence began against foreigners in South Africa. Tension is mounting among foreigners who believe they have not received suffficient protection from the police since the violence began. Reporters for the Mail & Guardian found a police vehicle that had been stoned by Somalis. Community leader Mohammed Abdul Hakir said the police have initiated problems by attempting to arrest Somali men instead of protecting people against violence. “People are on edge. They said(to the police). When we are being looted, you are not here. So why are you shooting now?” Hakir claims over thirty people have been arrested and even a newspaper photographer was threatened with arrest for taking pictures of attacks on Somalis.
A particulkar concern of the victims is the ever present fear of police corruption against illegal foreigners. One witness claimed: “They always come to ask for papers. If you don’t have, you must give them money. They search our rooms and take anything they want, like phones and TVs. If you can afford to give them money, you can get your stuff back. The bad ones are from John Vorster police station.”
Meanwhile, the police and army are cooperating in an effort to restore peace and order to the area. Morgan Tsvangirai, the Zimbabwean leader and a Kenya diplomat visited the area in an effort to reassure foreigners they will receive protectiona against violence. There are reports over 400 people have been arrested in conjunction with the violence but there is yet any evidence they have been brought to court and formally charged.
On a hopeful note, the Home Affairs Department has decided not to deport freigners who have been victimized by the violence. Former Cabinet minister Kader Asmai urged the government to declare an amnesty for foreigners in South Africa. He noted, “we have betrayed the children of the African disapora by not helping our fellow South African citizens to understand who these ‘strangers at the gate’ were, why they were in South Africa and what value they are adding to our economic and civic life.”