South African Indian community on edge over NRI’s killing

May 22nd, 2008 - 2:19 pm ICT by admin  

By Fakir Hassen
Johannesburg, May 22 (IANS) The South African community of Actonville, a mainly Indian township east of here, is on edge after the killing of photographer Kiten Singh, 55, believed to be the first person of Indian origin to fall prey to the xenophobic violence sweeping the country. Kiten was allegedly burnt alive by a mob Wednesday. The crowd of over 100 residents of a hostel that is home to local workers also set his house on fire.

As violence continued in neighbouring areas Thursday, police in Actonville were trying to solve the murder.

The investigators were reportedly puzzled by the fact that the killers had taken the time to spray the walls and doors with paint and daub images of unhappy faces on the walls of the house. The words “brick + wall = fire” had also been daubed onto Kiten’s car, which was parked outside the house.

Kiten’s brother, Lalbahadur Singh, said the family did not understand why he had been targeted.

“It was impossible for anyone to mistake him for a foreigner as he grew up here and was well-known in the area,” he said.

Lalbahadur added that his brother also did not have any foreigners working for him, which could have been a reason for the attack on him after threats to attack such businesses.

Constable Godin Nyathi, the Actonville Police spokesperson, confirmed to the Weekly Post that the group of attackers had come from the informal settlements near the area.

South Africa has been wracked by violent protests since the past week as locals began attacking migrants from other African countries, mainly Zimbabwe and Mozambique, accusing them of taking over local jobs and government-built accommodation.

Nyathi added that Singh’s house had been looted and believed that the attack was linked to the xenophobic violence.

A local supermarket owned by an unidentified South African Indian had also received threats of looting and violence after it made a substantial donation to charity organisations appealing for assistance for hundreds of refugees who had congregated at the local police station.

“We hope that this inhumane suffering is resolved quickly without having to send in the troops,” said Ahmed Motala, an Actonville resident. He was commenting on the fact that President Thabo Mbeki had Wednesday night signed into force the deployment of troops into the conflict-ridden areas if necessary.

The South African government had until now resisted this, relying on only the police to quell the violence. One of the main reasons for the reluctance to deploy the army was that, in the apartheid era, the use of armed forces in Black townships was a common tactic to drive fear into the locals.

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