ANC councillor fingered as architect of violence

xenophonbic_escaping_attacks.docDEDOORNS - Displaced Zimbabwean farm workers here last weekend fingered an ANC councillor as the chief architect of the xenophobic violence that flared up in the farming district last week and accused local police of failing to act quickly to stop the attacks. (Pictured: Zimbabwea

The farm workers also contradicted the South African governments position that the violence was not driven by prejudice, adding that Zimbabweans had been targeted out of spite.

MDC SA Publicity & Information Secretary, Sibanengi Dube, has condemned the SA governments apparent reluctance to take a stand firm on the thuggery.

The estimated 1000 Zimbabweans including some pregnant women and children are being sheltered in two massive tents supplied by the Red Cross Society at a Breede Valley Municipality sports field.

The temporary camp has been sealed off to non-Zimbabweans protect the workers from the marauding gangs that forced them out of their tin and cardboard homes on the edge of De Doorns Township. Armed police re-enforcements and emergence teams have been drafted in from nearby Worcester to post a round the clock guard around the camp.

But the bitter Zimbabweans are not impressed, arguing that the violence was premeditated and had the total backing of the councillor for the affected area a Mr Poyi. The farm workers said tension started mounting a month ago when the councillor organised an election campaign rally at which the strategy to push out the makwerekwere (a derogatory term for immigrants) was cobbled together.

The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) has since last week been reporting that the Zimbabweans fell out with their black South African counterparts over the low wages they are prepared to receive from white farmers in the vineyard valley. The Zimbabweans were accused of scuttling farm workers efforts to force the grape farmers into raise daily wages to at least R80.

Although the councillor had gone to ground at the weekend, the executive mayor, Charles Ntsomi, confirmed to The Zimbabwean ******** that he was investigating the councillors alleged involvement in the fracas. The council would also probe reports that a council vehicle, a Toyota Quantum minibus fitted with loudhailers, was used to mobilise and co-ordinate the attacks. He branded the violence as criminal and anti-social behaviour.

Frank Maguru (27) said Deputy Home Affairs minister Melusi Gigabas conclusion that the violence in which the Zimbabweans lost most of their belongings centred on labour issues and competition for resources was bizarre.

It is nonsensical to suggest that we are being favoured by white farmers because we accept low wages and work unreasonably long hours for little pay. I did not come all this way from Zimbabwe to work for peanuts. These people are just jealous because we work hard, make more money than they do and because of our entrepreneurial attributes, we are starting to acquire property, said Maguru.

The Zimbabweans alleged that their expulsion was a campaign ploy by the councillor to woo locals who are jealous of them. There are Malawians, Ghanaians, Cameroonians, people from Lesotho and Zambians in this place but how come these people were not attacked? Why come after Zimbabweans only? The locals hate us because we work hard and feel threatened by our growing numbers and relative success said Richman Jairos (36).

South Africa is gearing up for municipal elections in 2011 which are keenly anticipated particularly in the Western Cape, an outpost of white political domination. The Democratic Alliance (DA) won the province in Aprils general elections to form the only non ANC led government in the country.

Since the councillor launched his campaign for re-election, he has reportedly held a number of rallies at which locals have pushed for the expulsion of the Zimbabweans.

Local police Chief Superintendent Desmond van der Westhuizen confirmed that police had been slow to react while re-enforcements were on the way. Our priority was to protect lives but we have started arresting the looters, he said at the weekend. Police were looking to arrest 46 people who had participated in the attacks.

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