Foreign refugees selling food aid in S Africa

Published on Friday 30th May 2008

South Africa: Somali refugees are apparently selling food aid they have received from Good Samaritans, while at the same time refusing to allow their women and children to eat or receive medical assistance.


Hundreds of Somali refugees at a camp outside Pretoria went on a hunger strike this week, refusing to accept any aid from the South African government in protest over the treatment they received during a wave of xenophobic violence.

The sale of food aid comes as Tshwane Metro Council officials are considering calling in the Foreign Affairs Department in a bid to defuse a potential crisis that could result in scores of refugee women and children starving.

More than 1 300 refugees, about 500 of them Somalis, are being housed at the refugee site, which has been divided into a new tented camp, named Camp Hope, and the old temporary shelter to which they were first moved.

Refugees from Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo told the Pretoria News that when they went to fetch their remaining belongings from the old camp where the Somalis were still camped out, they were offered rice for R20 a plate and apples for R5 each.

While Somali leaders prevented their women and children from receiving food and medicine throughout Thursday, several of the leaders were spotted eating food from Chicken Licken bags.

"The aid that was given to all refugees on Monday night is now being sold by the Somalis. They are trying to make money from this situation, while putting their families in danger by not allowing them to eat. They're greedy and shouldn't be here if they don't want help," said Angolan Darian Lombada.

The revelation over the sale of food aid comes after Tshwane Metro Police officers were forced to open fire on a group of 200 Somalis who tried to storm Camp Hope on Wednesday night, apparently in an attempt to force those who were seeking shelter there, back to the old camp.

A metro police officer was injured when he was hit on the head with a can of Lucky Star Pilchards, which was thrown at them by the angry Somalis. Several metro police cars were stoned and aid trucks, carrying food and clothing supplies organised by the Pretoria Institute for Islamic Services, had to turn around.

Somali Duad Muhammed said: "We won't go into the camp because we don't trust the South African government or this country's people. First, they tried to kill us and now they say they want to help us."

He said they would rather starve along with their wives and children.

"Death is better than getting help from the government," he said to cheers.

Yusaf Mustafa of the Pretoria Institute for Islamic Services confirmed that they had been threatened and turned away.

"We will continue to gather food, clothing and other supplies and will distribute them to those in need.

"We are taking these threats and intimidation seriously, but we're not going to let women and children starve," he said.

Threats were also made against journalists for reporting "negatively" on the Somalis.

Shortly before sunset, several Somali families, who had broken away from the main group, were seen making their way to the tented camp.

Tshwane Disaster Management Centre spokesperson William Baloyi confirmed that the council was looking at getting Foreign Affairs involved.

"Hopefully we'll soon have a solution that will see everyone receiving food and other supplies," he said.