An ill wind blows in the windy city

Violence against Somalis in Port Elizabeth has prompted claims of a ‘silent genocide’ against immigrants

Port Elizabeth is known as the windy city, and it has lived up to its name every time I have visited.

But this time there is an ill wind blowing and the mood is different. Newspaper headlines tell of a “silent genocide” against Somali immigrants.

The residents of the township of Booysen Park are angry and scared after days of looting and the murder of immigrants from Somalia. Just being there appears dangerous.

An angry woman screams at me when I ask her a question, telling me to get out. She is scared that she and her family will be killed if gang members see her talking to a journalist.

Her exact words were “sliced open”.

Police in riot gear are here looking for people suspected of looting shops owned by immigrants.

They even have sniffer dogs.

Most Somali shop owners have fled and moved into the city where it’s safer. They say they are being killed all the time but the media, the South African government and the world doesn’t seem to care.

South Africans living in the area say they are not xenophobic – just frustrated with poverty and unemployment.

There are fears attacks on foreigners could spread. They started in Johannesburg, then Port Elizabeth, then the Freestate province.

It’s not yet the grim scene we saw in 2008, when scores of foreigners were killed and thousands displaced… but if nothing is done things could soon reach that stage.

Just like in 2008, it’s only Africans who are targeted.

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