Page last updated at 16:18 GMT, Monday, 19 May 2008 17:18 UK

S Africa violence: Your stories

South Africans holding sticks and knives shout anti-foreigner slogans as they riot in the Reiger Park informal settlement outside Johannesburg, 19 May

Thousands of foreigners living in South Africa have taken refuge in police stations and churches as attacks on migrant communities continue.

Police say at least 22 people have been killed since the violence first erupted a week ago. The Red Cross in South Africa said it could spread to other areas.

Many of those who have sought refuge are Zimbabweans, who have fled violence and poverty at home.

Up to three million Zimbabweans are thought to be in South Africa.

Here are the stories of migrants in Johannesburg who have been affected by the recent violence.


I live in Fordsburg in Johannesburg where there are lots of nationals from Somalia, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Last night I saw a mob trying to break into the residence next door where many Somalis live. I heard gunfire being exchanged.

Mozambican national receives treatment after being attacked in Johannesburg
Foreign population: 3-5m
Majority from Zimbabwe, also Mozambique, Nigeria
Total population: 49m
Unemployment rate: 30%

There was looting and I saw people running out onto the street with fridges and television sets.

As I was driving through the area last night I saw a crowd setting light to a man. The police managed to get to him and sprayed him with a fire extinguisher to put the fire out. I am not sure what happened to him. It was terrifying.

Tyres are being set alight in the street. They are stopping vehicles and pulling foreign nationals out so they can beat them.

Foreign-owned businesses have now closed. It's quiet now but very tense.

I am staying with some South African friends who I work with and they are protecting me.

The violence seems to be spreading from townships to other parts of Johannesburg.

I think this may be being orchestrated from quite high up as there is great rivalry between those who support President Thabo Mbeki and those who support Jacob Zuma [his likely successor. Both men have condemned the violence].

I think the violence will get worse.


I came to stay at the Jeppe police station in Johannesburg because some South African Zulu people came over to our house and attacked us.

They took our property and hit my husband. Then they said to us: "You must go."

We have nowhere to stay so we came to the police station.

We cannot go back to Zimbabwe because life there is very bad and there is no food. I hope things will change in South Africa because it is better here than in Zimbabwe.

We have nothing - not even clothes to change into. Now we are scared but there is nothing we can do.

We hope to stay here in the police station until the situation calms down and things become more stable.


My brother and I own a grocery shop in Johannesburg.

At about midnight last night a group of about 40 or 50 people came and banged on the door. We let them in. They started looting the shop and they took everything. There is nothing left.

They beat up my brother with a large fork. He has serious injuries to his back and one of his veins has been cut. He is now in hospital being treated for his injuries.

I managed to escape being beaten. I ran away and stayed with some South African neighbours.

The police are looking on but they are not doing anything.

You would not believe what is happening here. Everybody is fighting for their lives.

I am totally frustrated and don't know what to do. I may have to flee to another neighbouring country. I am fearing for my life.

We desperately need help.


I came to South Africa a year ago from Blantyre in Malawi. I now work as an accountant with a company in Sandton in Johannesburg.

At about 7pm on Sunday night I was reading the newspapers where I live, in accommodation at my company's factory.

We heard some noise outside. One of us went to the door to find out what was happening.

They burst in saying: "Give us money or we will kill you."

They said: "We are not looking for South Africans, we are looking for foreigners."

My other Malawian friends and I went to hide in another room where South Africans sleep so they would not think we were foreigners.

They had guns. I am sure that if they had found us they would have killed us.

They then went on the rampage, looting everything they could. They took televisions, DVD players and mobile phones.


It is a horrible situation here for foreigners. We have nowhere to run because they will even follow us home. I don't know when it is going to end.

The police are trying to help, but I don't think there are enough of them.

If this violence continues, I will have to go back home to Malawi.

I think this problem has happened because South Africans are jealous of the foreigners for taking their jobs. They are blaming the status quo on outsiders.

It is about jealousy because they see us as a barrier to their moving ahead.

I think the number one factor behind this trouble is the influx of millions of Zimbabweans. They are coming into South Africa in droves.

But now they are taking it out on all foreigners.

Only a political solution to the crisis in Zimbabwe will solve this problem.

If you look at the economic development of South Africa you will see that foreigners have contributed a lot to the country - for example in the mining sector.

But now they view the same people as "bad people."

Most of the gangs going on the rampage are young people in their twenties so they don't know their history.

We are killing each other. Black against black; brother against brother.

I am worried in case this escalates into a situation that can no longer be handled - like in Rwanda.

Intervention is needed now.

Click here to read more of your comments from South Africa

Thousands flee S Africa attacks
19 May 08 |  Africa
In pictures: Johannesburg violence
19 May 08 |  In Pictures
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