Municipal police accused of xenophobic attack


Immigrants running hair salons in Pietermaritzburg say they were assaulted even though they are operating legally

Photo of people along a street
On Monday police raided the hair salons of immigrants in Church Street, Pietermaritzburg. Photo: Nompendulo Ngubane

“Go back to your country! That’s an order,” a Msunduzi Municipality law enforcement officer reportedly told immigrants.

On Monday police raided the hair salons of immigrants in Church Street, Pietermaritzburg. The salon owners say the municipal police “forcefully removed” them, pointed guns at them, used teargas, broke mirrors, and confiscated their hair clippers and chairs.

Spokesperson for the municipality Thobeka Mafumbatha advised any business owner who was assaulted to open a case with the police.

“I’m in this country legally and I don’t deserve such torture,” said Musa Khabotoi from Malawi. Khabotoi said he had paid his business fee at the municipal offices. He has been operating his salon for 15 years at the same spot.

“I was busy shaving a customer’s hair at the time. The customer was forced to leave with his hair half-shaved,” said Khabotoi.

“The first thing they did was to call us names. They told us they don’t want amakwerekwere … We asked them why they are doing this because we are not doing anything wrong.”

When GroundUp arrived at the scene about 30 immigrants were standing on the roadside, picking up the pieces.

Abdul Kone, originally from Ivory Coast, came to South Africa in 1994. In 2005, he started operating his salon business. “I don’t owe the municipality anything. I pay the business fee every month. Not even once have I missed the payment. The municipality has delayed giving us business permits. They have promised to sort it out for years. We are law abiding citizens … I don’t know why foreign nationals are treated like animals … We are human beings working hard for our children,” said Kone.

A South African street vendor who operates across the road said she has seen a lot of assaults on immigrants. “They call them names which is sad. At the end of the day they are human. We cannot say much because police always come here armed. We are scared. We just watch. Last month, they came more than five times. Every time they take their stuff,” said the vendor.

Mafumbatha said there is a fee paid by foreign nationals who are in the country legally. She confirmed the Monday operation. “The operation is done by the municipal police to finish illegal businesses. If there was anything that was offensive or assault done by the municipal police, the victims should open a case,” said Mafumbatha.

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TOPICS:  Immigration Police brutality

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