Johannesburg Devastated By Riots

Downtown Johannesburg resembles a war zone after angry mobs of anti-foreign demonstrators ripped through it with their anger and hatred. Many downtown areas look like a wasteland as one sees makeshift barricades of rusty barbed wire, tires and chunks of concrete and shops stand open after being looted despite being protected by iron shutters which collapsed under the fury of mobs bent on their campaign of anger and hate. Police officers in bulletproof vests, with shotguns slung over their shoulders, stand guard at intersections, firing warning shots over the heads of woud-be looters. Overhead, one can hear the clatter of helicopters and in the distance is the sound of sirens blaring their signals of distress.

Nicole Jonston and Percy Zvomuya, reporting for the Mail & Guardian, saw groups of drunken men who smiled with glee at the sight of foreign workers forced to flee their homes. Sylvia Khumalo sits on a bench watching in disbelief. “This is terrible, we don’t understand what is going on. I don’t like it… I am a human being, they are also like me.” Not everyone shares her compassion to the foreigners, a group of young women pass by laughing scornfully as they shout, “Abahambe. Manje sizohala emarumini abo mahala, Let them go. We will live in their rooms for free.”

Compassion has not been a plentiful commodity as mobs go door to door, burning and beating, stealng e verythng from beds to food. The only safe place for the foreign workers is in the shelter of a police station. Admire Makhll, mourns “How can they take clothes from a baby? as he points to his 16-month old baby who is barefoot and bareheaded.

The reporters repeatedly heard from demonstrators they expected the election of Jacob Zuma to the ANC presidency means there now will be government action against the foreigners. The mobs question people in Zulu and if there is no response in that language he individual may be beaten.

President Mbeki has organized a panel to investigate the mob action. Of course, he refused to help the people of Zmbabwe in their fight against his old friend, Robert Mugabe, which resulted in a million fleeing their homeland for work in South Africa.

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