Wednesday, September 2, 2015


(South African Nigel Kabise keeping some of the children of the foreign nationals busy in various sporting events at the Hope Farm)
(Mr Ray Wartnaby and his wife, Ray, with two of the 138 foreign nationals they have given sanctuary on their farm, Hope Farm, situated near the farming town of Cato Ridge, about 40km west of the South African city of Durban) FOREIGN NATIONALS GRATEFUL TO FARMING COUPLE WHO HAD COME TO THEIR ASSISTANCE INSPITE OF BEING BULLIED BY A LOCAL AUTHORITY By Subry Govender While refugees and migrants from north Africa and the Middle East struggle to find safe sanctuaries in some European countries, there's a group of foreign nationals in South Africa who still find themselves in a state of insecurity, six months after being displaced by xenophbic attacks early this year. The foreign nationals - including 64 children - mainly from the DRC and Burundi - have been living on a farm about 40km west of the city of Durban for the past two months after being ejected from a shut down refugee camp in a residential area called Chatsworth in Durban. They are part of the more than 5 000 foreign nationals who either went back to their home countries in Zimbabwe, Malawi, Tanzania and Mozambique or reluctantly re-joined the general South African society. These traumatised refugees are facing another battle after the farming couple, Mr Andrew and Mrs Ray Wartnaby, who offered them the sanctuary, have been ordered by a nearby local authority to evict the foriegn nationals. I visited the farm on Monday, August 31, and spoke to the Wartnabys and the refugees about the latest situation in which they find themselves in. The farm is situated about 6km from Cato Ridge, a farming town situated about 40km from the coastal city of Durban in South Africa. When I arrived there in the early hours of Monday morning, I found Andrew and Ray Wartnaby busy and running around to attend to the needs of the affected foreign nationals. There were also a number of volunteers who were taking care of the children in a make-shift pre-school. The innocent souls are totally unaware of the trauma that their parents are being subjected to as foreign nationals.
(Mr Patrick Rashid Lubosha of the DRC with another xenophobic attack victim at Hope Farm) Andrew and Ray Wartnaby's farm is called "Hope Farm" and they have been running their self-sufficient property for the past 11 years. They have always provided sanctuary to displaced people, especially children, because of their commitment to the values and principles of the Christian faith. They responded to the plight of the foreign nationals after they found that they had been forced out of the Chatsworth camp when it was shut down more than two months ago. They were concerned that the children had been separated from their parents who had been arrested by the police for refusing to move out of the shut down Chatsworth refugee camp. "When we heard that there was a group of people whose children had been removed we wanted to go and help specially with the children," said Mrs Ray Wartnaby, who broke away from the children she was attending to in order to relate their involvement in assisting the foreign nationals. "So we went to find out how we could help and we were told the children had been removed to a childrens' home. When their lawyer got involved they mentioned that there was a possibility that if we gave an address that the people could get their children back and they would be re-united with them. "And that was what we did. We gave our address and we said to everybody they could stay here to re-unite with their children." They were assisted by a number of religious, charity, business and human rights organisations who provided tents and food for the foreign nationals. Some of these organisations included the Islamic Relief Agency and the Gift of the Givers. But no sooner had the refugees settled down in their new camp, the Hope Farm owners had been fined for illegally accommodating the foreign nationals. They were also ordered to move out the foreign nationals by September 6.
(Mr Andrew Wartnaby and his wife, Ray, on their farm, Hope Farm) Andrew Wartnaby said a lawyer was handling the matter with the authorities. He said: "The action of the authorities does not help us because we really don't have a solution. We formed a meeting of various role players, including the municipality, and it has been expressed to us very very clearly that by the sixth of the ninth, this group of people need to be off our property but as yet we haven't been told where they must go. "There hasn't been a solution. There has only been pressure on us that they must be gone." Mrs Wartnaby said that they had been told by the foreign nationals that they don't want to stay in South Africa and that they wanted to be moved to a third country. "The group of people here want a third country," she said. "They don't want to be in South Africa any more because they have really been persecuted here in South Africa. They come from war torn countries in the DRC and Burundi, so there's no way that they can go back there. Basically they want to go to a country where they can be safe and where they can bring up their children and live in peace," said Mrs Wartnaby. The affected foreign nationals on the farm told me that they had been targeted in South Africa since 2008 and now they don't feel safe anymore in the country. They said they have appealed to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees to shift them to a third country where they would be safe.
(Patrick Rashid Lubosha from the DRC. ) WE DON'T FEEL SAFE ANYMORE IN SOUTH AFRICA Patrick Rashid Lubosha, a DRC national, said he had been in South Africa for 15 years with his wife and children. During the last xenophobic attacks six months he was working in Tongaat, a town to the north of Durban. He and his family were attacked and he had lost all his possessions. He and his family first went to a refugee camp in Isipingo, south of Durban, and then later moved to Chatsworth. "We don't feel safe anymore," he said. "What we want is a third country because we cannot really live in this country any more because of insecurity which we have been facing and the violence perpetrated on us oftenly. Every time we started our lives we had been de-stabilised by the local people."
(Mr Irambona Joseph from Burundi) "I WANT TO MOVE OUT OF SOUTH AFRICA BECAUSE I DON'T WANT TO DIE" Another refugee, Irambona Joseph, 45, fled Burundi 12 years ago to start a new life in South Africa. He said that while he appreciated being allowed to stay in the country and to continue his Biblical studies through correspondence, he always suffered and became a victim since the xenophobic attacks first started in 2008. He now wants to move out of South Africa through the support of the UNHCR to a third country where he would be safe with his family. He said: "I ran away from my country because of war, even here South Africa it's the same. So now I am tired of this. My future is to move out South Africa and not to return to the community because we don't like to be affected again. I don't like to die."
(Ms Bella Ishatanga from Burundi) "THE WARTNABYS ARE LIKE ANGELS" Twenty-year-old Ms Bella Ishatanga is at Hope Farm with her mother. She and her parents are from Burundi and have been in South Africa for the past 13 years. When the second phase of xenophobic attacks took place in March, she and her mother were staying with other foreign nationals in an area called Cato Manor in Durban. Their homes were attacked and they were forced to flee to a refugee camp in Isipingo and later transferred to Chatsworth. She and her mother also want to move to another country. "I left school and I don't want to stay in this country. I don't feel safe in this country and I want to go where we will be safe," said Ms Ishatanga. She said the Wartnabys' were like angels and they were grateful to them for providing them with a place to stay.
(Mr Daniele Congolo of the DRC) "I DON'T KNOW WHAT I CAN DO. MAY BE GOD WILL FIND A SOLUTION FOR US" Forty-five-year-old Daniele Congolo has been in South Africa for the past 10 years with his wife. He earned a livelihood as a car guard but was repeatedly attacked during xenophobic attacks in 2008 and early this year. "I was beaten in my house and my wife was also beaten up. The attackers then set my house on fire. Now my mind is finished, I don't know what I can do. Maybe God can bring a solution for my life," said Mr Congolo. "I want to go to a country where my wife and I can enjoy peace. I don't secure in this country any more. I have been always told by locals that I should go back home and I should not be here. I don't have a feeling of living in this country again," he added.
(South African Mr Nigel Kabise with some of the 64 children of foreign nationals. He's keeping them busy with various sports.) 'AS A SOUTH AFRICAN I FEEL ASHAMED OF WHAT HAD BEEN DONE TO OUR FELLOW BROTHERS AND SISTERS" A young South African, 24-year-old Nigel Kabise, belongs to a Christian charity organisation and he's at the farm to help the foreign nationals with their daily needs. He's ashamed that his fellow South Africans had been responsible for the traumatic condition in which the affected foreign nationals find themselves in. "It really hurts me as a South African to see what is happening to our fellow brothers and sisters." he said. "I don't think this is what we wanted as a nation. I don't see it as a way forward. These are the things that pull us back as a nation. Judging from our history and from where we come from, this sort of anguish caused to the foreign nationals is not right. I feel ashamed that we can do this sort of atrocity in our new democratic country," he said, The South African authorities are keeping tight lipped about the plight of these foreign nationals. But human rights organisations - helping the affected people - believe the South African Government wants the foreign nationals to be moved out of the farm so that they could integrate themselves in South African communities. But the affected people do not see this as a solution. They want the United Nations to help them to move to a third country where they would be able to lead normal lives without being the targets of xenophobic attacks on a regular basis. - ends sg/dbn September 1 2015

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