The majority of press coverage of foreigners in S. Africa has been on Zimbabweans and Mozambicans, yet many people from the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) have been and continue to be victimized by xenophobic violence in S. Africa.
Congolese refugees living in S. Africa fled the DRC because of the political turmoil that their country now endures, thinking that life would be safer and more prosperous in S. Africa. They were wrong. Now not only can they not go home, but they can’t live here (SA).
Today a couple of us spent the morning in one of the displacement camps around Jo’burg (named Rifle Range) that houses roughly 680 Congolese people who were forced from their homes during the wave of xenophobic attacks that took place a few weeks back. We sat in their tents with them and heard stories from people who had been looted, beaten, stabbed and of family members who were decapitated. Their fears and frustrations were palpable and mounting.
The most difficult moment came, at least for me, when the group of men surrounding me asked me not to be a “journalist” for a minute and to give them advice on what they could do to improve their situation and get people to listen to them and offer protection.
The truth was, I had absolutely know idea. I was ashamed of how ineffectual the only answer I could give them was. “I don’t know.” Our experience here has demonstrated how inept the governmental and information infrastructure is in S. Africa. What about those whose lives hang in the balance every minute of the day as they wait, and wait, and wait?
I hope this project we’re working on will catch the eyes and hearts of people in positions of authority and agents of change who can and will provide these suffering people with a better answer. At the very least, they deserve that.