SAM Philane, a Mozambican national, was chased from his home in Primrose by a xenophobic mob last week. Now’s he’s living in a displacement camp. But he’s not angry, he just wants to go back to his home in the East Rand.
SAFE HAVEN: Living in a tent, Mozambican national Sam Philane and his partner Angelina Chiabo have fled their home in Primrose, fearing xenophobic violence. They have taken shelter at a camp established by charity Gift of the givers in Mayfair. Photo: Sibongile Machika
After hearing that the xenophobic mobs were starting to form in the Primrose area of Germiston, Sam called his girlfriend, Angelina Chiabo, asking her to gather up their valuables for safe keeping. But by the time he got home it was too late, their house had been looted. All they had left was one suit case and a box full of their documents and family pictures.
Thousands of foreign nationals have been displaced since the xenophobic attacks started in Durban three weeks ago. As more attacks have been reported across the country, foreigners have been fleeing for camps in fear for their lives. Many of them have had their possessions stolen or burnt, including their passports and immigration papers. The loss of their document makes them even more vulnerable to attacks from police and civilians.
“want to get paid the same salaries as the people who are educated, while they don’t even have matric.”
Philane and his girlfriend fled from their home and initially went to the Primrose displacement camp in Germiston. However, Philane said the conditions there were not good with men, women and children sharing the same tents at the camp. They then moved to a camp in Fordsburg which was set up by NGO Gift of the Givers.
A home away from home
Their temporary home is a small tent with two foam beds neatly made up and clothes stacked on top of a suit case. Philane, a Mozambican national, is adamant that this is only temporary. He has been in South Africa since 2000 and he sees himself as a dual citizen.
“I am not angry,” he said. Nor is he making any arrangements to leave this country. He seemed more concerned about his community, asking what is going to happen to the perpetrators, some of whom he knows personally. He wanted to know if leaders have discussed re-integration plans that will allow both perpetrators and victims back into the community.
Philane believes that the attacks are a result of frustration. He said like everybody else, he goes where the work is but there are not enough jobs for everyone.
He believes that locals struggle to find job because they “want to get paid the same salaries as the people who are educated, while they don’t even have matric.”
Philane adds that South Africans forget that some of their countrymen are also in Mozambique where they too are working as foreigners.
“We all follow the work,”
Photo: TJ Lemon
As an East campus dweller and a West campus trespasser, I used to find that being recognised as a credible student did not come easy.
I always felt compelled to prove my intelligence, particularly on the side where the sun sets. In my first year as a Witsie, I discovered there was an unspoken hierarchy between the different Wits campuses, and East campus was at the bottom. You won’t find this status on notice boards, and there’s no statistic to back it up. It is simply implied by our over-the-bridge neighbours, in questions like: “Do you even need to study?” or in comments like: “I wish I was a BA student, you guys sit on the grass all day”.
After a year of desperation, I enrolled in a commerce course in which our lecturer would often warn us that if we failed, we could always enrol in a BA course. It wasn’t that I was unsure of my choice or that I did not have a sense of direction, it was that I had allowed my insecurities to dim my light. I did not want to be an accountant or an actuary, despite the pay. I did not find the idea of being a lawyer appealing. I knew exactly what I wanted. I wanted to inspire, inform and to simply “write what I like”.
After many years of dodging questions like: “What are you studying”? Or “Is there a big market for what you’re studying?” I have found that my choice of study was not what I needed to alter to appease the unimpressed. It was my response to their attitudes. Mine needed to be the weapon which broke the ignorance.
The war between east and west has its source in our country’s education system, which esteems some courses over others. This arrogance has led to companies funding only the faculties which are home to those esteemed subjects. Our attitude as a country has created a clear divide. The fact that there is a divide between the Wits campuses is merely the symptom of a wider problem, not the root of it. I have learnt that I don’t want to be valued because of what I do or how much I earn. I want to be valued because of what I contribute to society.
Mother Teresa once said: “I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things.”