A South African local authority says there are serious clashes between Sothos and Zimbabweans in the Eastern Cape on Thursday due to a fallout over jobs.
Indications are that some of the affected Zimbabweans are now living in the bush in fear of being attacked by Sothos despite a heavy police presence in the area.
In a statement posted on its official website, Alderman S.W. Van Eeden, executive mayor of Langeberg Municipality, said clashes between Lesotho and Zimbabwean foreign nationals broke out in Nkqubela, Robertson, due to alleged discriminatory employment issues on farms in the surrounding area.
Van Eeden said earlier this week, a Nkqubela community meeting was called where unemployed locals addressed their unhappiness that labour brokers are employing foreign nationals and taking their jobs.
He said during the meeting it was concluded that a protest will take place.
“On Thursday 17 March, approximately 500 residents blocked the entrance to Nkqubela with burning tyres, and throwing vehicles with rocks, to prevent contractors to load workers onto vehicles. The protest then turned into a fight between Lesotho and Zimbabwean nationals.”
Van Eeden said South African Police Services (SAPS) and the Public Order Police (POPs) are currently deployed to stabilize the situation in Nkqubela as the clashes continued on Friday.
“The unrest has resulted in one person being hospitalized, and 17 people reported with minor injuries of which two are children. About 20 dwellings of foreign nationals have been broken into and some shacks burned. The fires have caused part of a 66kV electrical line to be damaged, power will be down in Goudmyn and Wakkerstroom-West until the area is safe to access for emergency repairs.
“No criminal cases have been opened by members of the public, and no arrest has been executed at this time as culprits fled the area. A case of public violence was opened by SAPS and a Joint Operation Committee has been activated. Various spheres of government are active to analyse and address the unrest and any issues that may stem from the unrest. Langeberg Municipality’s role is to facilitate and take part in integrated discussions with the various departments to resolve the conflict.”
Van Eeden further noted that Nkqubela has been declared a red zone, adding that emergency and municipal services “are thus currently unable to access the area to deliver services. Patients can be brought outside the red zone to meet the emergency vehicles on standby. The Robertson Main Road (Voortrekker Street, R60) is open for traffic. SAPS and traffic officers are visible on the road and the traffic flow is normal.”
He said about 200 people, mostly women and children, have been evacuated from the area and are currently gathered outside the Robertson SAPS station to seek safety.
Van Eeden said, “Community organizations and residents wanting to help with donations towards the affected families can contact the Humanitarian Support Organization: Elaine Harrison at 0845042199, email@example.com. Residents are urged to report incidences to SAPS at 023 626 8340. Many videos that are fake news are currently being spread. We urge the public to abstain from spreading fake news as it only adds tension to the situation and spreads fear among residents.”