During the past three months after xenophobic mobs rampaged through the streets of Johannesburg, thousands of people who fled their homeland in search of peace have been forced to live in refugee camps established by the South African government. Yesterday, at one such camp, four men leapt over the fence and created havoc as refugees attacked them in fear they represented a new outbreak of violence. There are now 34 shelters housing about 32,000 people who had their homes destroyed by mobs, and their possessions stolen without any effort on the part of the South African government to offer compensation for their losses. They are sitting in a refugee camp without work and without hope for the future.
Sighet Mashego, who is working on the refugee situation noted: “Reintegration is not something we can do for an individual, it’s a process that has to be dealt with by leaders both of the refugee community and the community who these people were displaced and we are still working on it.” This attitude makes no sense. People were forcibly attacked by mobs and forced to flee for their lives. It is not their responsibility to build relations with those who stole from them, that is the responsibility of the South African government.
Most of the refugees feel abandoned. As Bosco Mugisha who fled the Sudan put it, “kill us all and they should bury us here.” Such is the fatalism of people abandoned by the South African leadership.