It never rains but it pours for a group of displaced foreigners who are homeless again.
The 120 people – 25 families – were evicted from Durban’s Shirley Chambers on the eve of Good Friday by owner Omar Osman. This is the sixth time they have been forced to find new accommodation since thousands of them were displaced by the xenophobic violence in KwaZulu-Natal a year ago.
They have now made the pavements of JN Singh and Baker streets in the Durban city centre their new home.
These foreigners have been unrelenting in their refusal to be reintegrated into local communities, saying they want to be moved to other Africa countries.
They came to Shirley Chambers early last month after spending almost nine months at a Cato Ridge farm.
Congolese Sabuni Nyerere said: “We don’t know who placed us here. Some said it was a church, while others said it was an NGO. Our stance has not changed, we want to leave South Africa.”
Osman said his building was a private property and that it is used for daily rentals. He said when the foreigners brought in, the arrangement was for them to stay for three days. He believed the person who brought them to his property represented the SA Council of Churches.
“When the three days were over we had to ask them to leave, but Africa Solidarity Network asked us to extend their stay by two more weeks and agreed to pay the rent. We obliged,” he said.
However, when two weeks ended and no money was forthcoming and other tenants started to complain, Osman said he had no choice but to evict them.
He said he came under pressure from a local councillor and the police to take the foreigners back, but he refused.
“The (other) tenants were complaining about overcrowding on the premises and those who placed them could not find money to sustain their continuous living here. I had to do what any private proprietor would do confronted by such circumstances,” he said.
The building general manager, Babu Ramadan, said the foreigners acceded to the eviction, but have refused to leave the pavement, saying it belonged to the municipality.
They had lived at Hope Farm in Killarney Valley, west of Durban, where farmers Andrew and Rae Wartnaby had allowed them to stay.
However, following fights among the group and constant clashes with the Wartnabys, the KwaZulu-Natal Council of Churches intervened and moved part of the group to Durban.