• Xenophobic attacks spread
• Botswana embassy on high alert
• Postpone travel to SA, envoy advises
More than 70 Botswana nationals who are currently trapped in the city of Durban, Kwazulu Natal-South Africa were said to be a terrified lot on Friday although the ongoing attacks on foreign nationals had not directly affected them.
On Friday Botswana’s High Commissioner to South Africa based in Pretoria Zenene Sinombe narrated how terrified and traumatised Batswana living in Durban, who are mostly students, are. So terrified they are, he said, that they have been confined to their residences in schools and cannot currently go out to even get airtime to contact their families. “We have warned them to exercise extra caution and avoid going to high risk areas. So far they have done a good job,” said Sinombe, adding that they are on high alert to act swiftly should the situation deteriorate.
According to Sinombe, they are confident of an assurance by the SA government that the safety of all foreign nationals is guaranteed and they are monitoring the situation closely. Despite this, he said the students are not convinced and want out of the city reeling under violent attacks. “They have so far requested that they be evacuated from the city and want to return to Botswana and as we speak we are consulting all affected stakeholders,” he said.
Sinombe said since they are still consulting with all stakeholders in including sponsors-Ministry of Education & Skills Developments, University of Botswana, Botswana Railways and parents for those who are self-sponsored he could not say with certainty that the students will be evacuated and returned home. “Our representatives and other stakeholders met today and by Saturday we should be able to have their final decision,” said Sinombe.
Sinombe said the high Commission accepts interventions proposed by the South African government to ease the situation especially the fact that they promise to enhance deployments of security in hot spots to contain the attacks. “The expectation is that the situation will go back to normal soon but if need be, we will evacuate our people as soon as possible,” he said.
Be that as it may, he said, they are conscious of the fact that this is not the first time xenophobic attacks occur in some parts of South Africa and the recurrence cannot be taken for granted. Sinombe also warned all those who want to travel to South Africa for leisure to postpone their trips in the meantime until the situation is back to normal. To those who urgently need to travel he advises them to exercise extra caution at all time and avoid hot spots areas.
Recent xenophobia attacks started in Durban about two weeks ago and are reported to have spread to other provinces like Gauteng. International Media reported that foreign-owned shops have been attacked and looted in east Johannesburg, the latest in a series of xenophobic attacks by Friday. According to the reports a standoff developed in the city, with police forming a barrier between an angry crowd and foreign-owned shops.
The violence came despite Thursday's rally against xenophobia in the Durban, and condemnation from President Jacob Zuma. At least five people have died in anti-foreigner attacks in recent weeks.
Migrants, mostly from other African states and Asia, have moved to South Africa in large numbers since white-minority rule ended in 1994. South Africans are now accusing them of taking jobs in a country where the unemployment rate is 24%.
Among the interventions proposed by the South African government as a measure of redress is to equip nationals with business expertise and financial literacy as a step up to owning and running small businesses.