Pretoria West: 'I had to hide my baby under my bed'
Cape Town - A Nigerian family had to hide their baby under a bed while angry residents went on a rampage in Pretoria West, calling them drug dealers.
“Can you imagine standing there and watching your property, your house burn down? Why don’t they want us here,” a Nigerian father said on Saturday.
His house was one of two that were burned down by angry residents on Saturday.
He had woken up to dozens of people banging outside their doors.
“Nigerians come out, come out now, they were saying,” he told News24.
The situation accelerated so fast that he made a snap decision to throw some of the children who lived in yard over the wall into a neighbour’s yard, just before a petrol bomb was thrown at his house.
“I tried to get back inside to get our passports but it was too late,” the distraught man said, looking at the blacked out remains of the house he had been renting.
“They were so angry; I had to hide my baby under the bed when I heard them coming. What are we supposed to do now? Where are we going to sleep tonight?” another resident of the house said.
There were 11 adults and 3 children living in the five bedroom house, he said, but everyone had escaped in time.
No arrests made
No-one has been arrested after two houses were burned down and various homes raided by Pretoria West community members on Saturday, police have said.
Police spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Lungelo Dlamini said they had deployed a number of officers to the area in a bid to quell the violence.
Angry residents raided alleged drug dens and brothels on Saturday, burning two houses down as they went door to door in search of drugs.
“It is under control right now. We have deployed quite a number of police in the to ensure that the violence did not flare up again,” he said.
By late afternoon on Saturday, residents were still walking up and down the streets under heavy police guard vowing to root out criminality.
Dlamini said the violence only started on Saturday in the community.
But some business people [mostly foreigners] in the area have been feeling the heat for a couple of weeks already.
We don't sell drugs
A Nigerian businessman who has worked alongside Pretoria West residents for almost 10 years, fixing their cars is now running scared after his business went up in flames, without warning.
The teary man was trying to pick up his life on Saturday, picking through the wreckage, when violence broke out again.
The businessman, who did not want to give his name for fear of victimisation, was one of the victims of the flare up of violence in the township, as residents accused foreigners of being drug dealers.
The Nigerian businessman said his business had been burned to the ground, with 29 cars a few days ago.
An angry crowd had raided his workshop in search for drugs, he told News24 in an interview outside his burned out workshop.
“But they did not find them. We are not selling drugs here. Arrest those who sell drugs. The police know who is selling drugs in this area. You don’t see any drugs here,” he said.
He said he and other businesses in the area were contributing to the economy and not the crime in the country.
The hardest thing for him, he said, was that he could not simply cry, pack up and go home.
“We are past crying. If I go home, I will be an armed robber there, nothing else. I wouldn’t rob anyone, only South Africans because they target us,” he said.
He bemoaned the fact that Nigerians were often painted with the same brush.
“There are bad Nigerians and there are good Nigerians. They should arrest the bad ones. How can we support our families when we live in fear?” he said.