South Africans flee Mozambique, fearing backlash

May 24th, 2008 - 8:36 pm ICT by admin  

By Fakir Hassen
Johannesburg, May 24 (IANS) South Africans in neighbouring Mozambique are fleeing the country and Mozambican authorities are on high alert amid fears of retaliation for the xenophobic violence against Mozambicans in South Africa. The Afrikaans daily Beeld reported here Saturday that thousands of South African tourists were streaming over the border-post at Ressano Garcia. The Mozambican government was reported to have ascribed this to “a precautionary measure against the possibility that Mozambicans could turn against them” in the aftermath of the xenophobic violence that has wracked South Africa in the past fortnight.

“Where the normal traffic (for returning South Africans) over the border is about 100 vehicles daily, in the past four days this has risen to up to 600 per day,” said Orlando Cossa, Mozambique’s head of immigration.

“By yesterday morning, 1,671 vehicles had crossed the border from Mozambique to South Africa.”

South African authorities confirmed that a far greater number of South Africans had also been coming back at the Lebombo border post with Mozambique. Expectations increased that an equal number of vehicles would cross into both countries this weekend, with busloads of Mozambicans who had sought refuge or work in South Africa headed home.

Mozambican authorities are expecting that over 10,000 of their citizens are on their way home, while a South African working in Mozambique said there was increasing anger against his compatriots there by locals.

The source who preferred to remain anonymous said Mozambicans were “sick of the TV images about the violence that is being broadcast here.” He expected that locals would “wreak vengeance on all that is South African”.

“We can see it in their faces that they are building up anger. They are not happy about what is happening to their people in South Africa. If the violence does not stop, they will look for some way to let off steam. That will be us.”

These fears were confirmed by Mozambican police spokesman Arnaldo Chefo, who told Beeld that they had received “hundreds of telephone calls from angry Mozambicans threatening revenge attacks on South African businesses” in the capital, Maputo.

Many South African businesses have been active in Mozambique as the economy there began growing again after two decades of civil war following independence from Portugal.

“We have now received orders from Central Headquarters to patrol potential flash points in Maputo and strengthen them, especially at restaurants frequented by South Africans,” Chefo said.

Famous for its seafood, the coastal city of Maputo is a popular cheap holiday destination for South Africans.

The South African High Commission in Maputo said no warning had yet been issued advising its citizens not to travel to Mozambique. Describing the situation as “calm”, the mission said it was monitoring it very closely.

As Mozambicans continued to stream home in buses, trains and large taxis, aid workers receiving them described some of the wounds inflicted on them by marauding South African mobs as horrific.

“We have already treated 61 people for deep cuts and burn wounds,” Nathaniel Chemane, a coordinator with the Red Cross told Beeld.

“Others were so badly wounded that we rushed them immediately to hospital in Maputo.”

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