The Rwandan Embassy in South Africa has warned Rwandans living in South Africa against visiting trouble areas amid escalating xenophobic violence which has so far claimed the lives of over 40 foreigners and displaced 10,000 others.
‘Due to the ongoing xenophobic criminal acts against foreigners spread out in the country, the Embassy of Rwanda in South Africa is alerting all members of the Rwandan Community in South Africa to desist from troubled areas,’ a statement released by the embassy on Tuesday reads in part.
‘To that effect, students are requested to remain at their institutions of learning and the places of residence and to avoid socializing in other places especially in late hours. The working community should be vigilant and stay in their place of work and residences,’ it adds.
The embassy also circulated telephone hotlines for Rwandan nationals to communicate ‘any criminal act against any member of the Rwandan Community.’
In a telephone interview with The New Times, Rwanda’s Ambassador to South Africa, Eugène Munyakayanza, said that the embassy had been informed that three Rwandan nationals wanted to return home following the violence.
“We are actually just from a meeting and have learnt that some people are ready to return home, and one has already booked for a Friday flight. We (The Embassy) are willing to facilitate them,” he explained.
The Ambassador said no Rwandan has so far been killed in the violence, but hastened to add that some Rwandan families were last month displaced from Pretoria.
“Those who were displaced lost all their property.”
“The target of these acts are all foreigners living in informal settlements, especially the townships around the big cities of Pretoria and Johannesburg,” Munyakayanza said.
According to the Ambassador’s personal assistant and student administrator at the embassy, Aline Musoni, there are about 400 registered Rwandan nationals living in South Africa, adding that many others were not registered with the Embassy.
She said that about 250 of Rwandans there are students, most of them pursuing post-graduate courses in different universities spread across the country.
“They are almost in all the provinces,” she added.
Asked what method they used to ensure that the statement reaches all members of the Rwandan Community there, Musoni said that they forwarded it to all the nationals in the embassy database, as well as through representatives of the Rwandan Diaspora in South Africa. She said the most affected regions are Gauteng, Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.
A South African journalist told this reporter yesterday that the violence largely stems from belief among poor South Africans that foreigners take their jobs.
“This feeds into the criminal elements who blame the poor’s misfortune on the foreigners so that they could be attacked and their property taken away. In the last few days, township after township erupted and foreign nationals were attacked simply because they were not South Africans,” Chris Makhaye, a senior writer with South Africa’s Sunday Tribune said in an email correspondence.