Xenophobia: The other side of the story

Sesisa Gumede in Johannesburg, South Africa
A GREAT deal of nasty stories, images and videos of people being tortured, burnt and killed all in the name of xenophobia have been circulating lately.This has made a lot of relatives and friends fear the worst for their loved ones residing in South Africa.

As a Zimbabwean living in Johannesburg during this xenophobic era ita��s not my place to dismiss the brutal attacks that many have seen in the social media, but I can confirm that there is tranquility in places where the majority of our brothers and sisters from Bulawayo and Matabeleland reside, in and around Johannesburg CBD, apart from the attacks at Alexandra early this week.

That said I believe ita��s everyonea��s responsibility to be wary of spreading unfounded rumours about violence or intended attacks. By this Ia��m referring to one of the messages I received, strangely enough, from one of my brothers in Zimbabwe.

Ia��m sure most people have received the whatsApp message which read, a�?A train full of Zulus left Durban today, heading to Johannesburg and Pretoria! The men are armed and they will be killing any foreigner they meet along the way.a�?

The a�?interestinga�? part is that the message went on to say, please tell all your friends and relatives leaving in

Johannesburg to avoid areas like Hillbrow, Berea, Yeoville to mention but a few.

Nothing of this sort hasA� happened, there were no armed men roaming the streets of Johannesburg, ita��s been business as usual, people are still carrying on with their normal routines, those employed are still going to work as usual, loafers are still a�?chillinga�? by the parks, shops and foreign-owned spazas havena��t been closed or looted and even bars are still open.

However, in as much as this never happened such messages have done more harm than good. This is cemented by that after receiving these messages many people did panic and most were scared for their lives.

We cannot ignore the fact that at the end of the day these attacks are real in some parts of the country for instance in Durban and this therefore caused foreign nationals and their families alike to fear for their lives even though they had not witnessed any violence first hand.

In reality the majority of foreign nations living in Johannesburg condemn the social media hoaxes related to xenophobic attacks as these create panic to a point where relatives at home end up worrying endlessly about the safety of their loved ones.

Sharing the same sentiments among others was Romeo Dube, a Hillbrow resident who did not seem amused by the information being disseminated on social media.

a�?The social media has blown things out of proportion, spreading messages saying there is aA� train full of Zulus coming to Johannesburg, all these messages put panic in the foreign nationals,a�? said Dube.

Dube went on to say that when South Africans receive a message like that, they may feel the need to start looting before the alleged Zulus beat them to it. As far-fetched as this may seem, a lot of people do believe that such messages have potentially fuelled violence and also instigated looting incidents in Jeppestown and Alexandra which happened on Friday and Saturday night respectively.

If truth be told, the proliferation of such messages has indeed instilled panic and confusion among migrant communities because in as much as someone staying in Hillbrow or Yeoville hasna��t witnessed any xenophobic act first hand, people have been killed in some parts of South Africa and media reports say over 2 000 have been displaced, thus panic is all over the place.

The attacks have been serious in Durban, and in informal settlements outside Johannesburg CBD.