Category Archives: Humanitarian Issues

Nigeria – President Buhari viws to crush godless Boko Haram



New Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari promised on Friday to eradicate the “mindless, godless” militants of Boko Haram and rescue hundreds of women and children held captive, including 200 girls taken from the town of Chibok a year ago.
In his inaugural address as elected leader of Africa’s most populous nation and biggest oil producer, Buhari also painted a picture of an economy in crisis after a collapse in the price of crude, which accounts for the bulk of state revenue.
“The armed forces will be fully charged with prosecuting the fight against Boko Haram,” the 72-year-old former military ruler announced. A Muslim, he said the group was “as far from Islam as one can think of”.
“We cannot claim to have defeated Boko Haram without rescuing the Chibok girls and all other innocent persons held hostage,” he said. “This government will do all it can to rescue them alive.”
Hundreds of other Boko Haram captives have been freed by the military in recent weeks, but the Chibok girls, whose capture caused a global outcry, have still not been found.

Neighbouring Chad said its army had killed at least 33 Boko Haram militants and lost three of its own soldiers in heavy fighting on an island in Lake Chad on Wednesday.
Friday’s handover, following Buhari’s election victory in March, was Nigeria’s first democratic transfer of power. He inherits a host of problems from his predecessor Goodluck Jonathan, whose five-year tenure was marked by aimless security and foreign policy-making, as well as corruption scandals.
Depleted foreign reserves, vastly reduced oil revenues, corruption and the escalating cost of servicing debt had left the economy in “deep trouble”, Buhari said.

He made no mention of the naira currency, which economists say may be heading for another devaluation.
Importantly, he held out an olive branch to his political opponents in the oil-producing Niger Delta, saying his administration would continue to invest heavily in projects in the region that have underpinned an amnesty for militant groups there.

Three decades after he first came to power in a military coup, Buhari’s swearing-in marks a remarkable turn-around from authoritarian ruler to democrat following his landslide victory.
His oath was followed by the release of dozens of white doves, symbolising peace. Many of Nigeria’s 170 million people interpreted it as turning the page on five years of disappointment and frustration under Jonathan.

“Jonathan was so bad, very bad. Now the incoming president will do something for us,” said Mutawali Bukar, a businessman from the northeast city of Maiduguri, the centre of the Boko Haram insurgency.
Thousands in Abuja’s Eagle Square chanted “Sai Buhari”, which means “All hail, Buhari” in the northern Hausa language.
The optimism is, however, tempered by the reality in which Nigeria finds itself. Much depends on Buhari’s choice of ministers, particularly in portfolios such as finance, internal security and oil.

“Now it’s time for the heavy lifting,” said Bismark Rewane, chief executive of Lagos-based consultancy Financial Derivatives. “Do you have the team that is respected by the international community, that has the pedigree and the background to deal with the management issues?”
Yemi Osinbajo, a Christian lawyer from the southwest region that includes Lagos, is vice-president, a deliberate counterweight in the religiously mixed nation to Buhari, who is from the predominantly Muslim north.

Although his roots are in the military, not economics, Buhari served as head of the Petroleum Trust Fund under Sani Abacha, another military ruler, giving him insight into the murky world of crude oil production.
Befitting Buhari’s modest style, there was little fanfare in Abuja before his swearing-in, with security checkpoints leading to Eagle Square and a few green and white national flags lining its main expressway.
The ceremony was attended by African leaders and foreign dignitaries including U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
A senior U.S. official said Washington, which had strained ties with Jonathan’s administration, was ready to expand military cooperation, including sending advisers to help train Nigeria’s army against Boko Haram. “We have every indication that we’ll be able to start a new chapter,” the official said.
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said London also aimed to increase its support, including in the area of intelligence. “We’ve asked the president, when he’s ready, to let us have a shopping list of the support that he wants,” Hammond said.

South African President Jacob Zuma was a notable guest, a sign of Pretoria’s desire to improve relations with Abuja after a series of diplomatic rows, most recently over a wave of attacks on foreigners in South Africa this year.
(Additional reporting by Felix Onuah, Isaac Abrak in Kaduna and Madjiasra Nako in Ndjamena; Writing by Alexis Akwagyiram; Editing by Ed Cropley, David Stamp and Mark Trevelyan)

Gambia – many disappeared after attempted coup says HRW

Human Rights Watch/allAfrica

Gambia: Dozens Held Incommunicado, ‘Disappeared’ – Reveal Whereabouts of People Arrested After December Coup Attempt


Dakar — Gambian authorities have detained incommunicado, depriving them of all contact with the outside world, dozens of friends and relatives of people accused of involvement in a coup attempt since January 2015, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said today. Those detained include women, elderly people, and a child, and many are believed to be in ill-health.

The government has refused to acknowledge the whereabouts or even the detention of many of them, effectively holding them outside of the protection of the law. This amounts to enforced disappearance, a serious violation of international law. The Gambian government should urgently reveal their whereabouts and either charge them with a recognizable offense if there is sufficient evidence or immediately release them.

“Gambian authorities are ignoring basic human rights standards by detaining people incommunicado, raising grave concerns of enforced disappearance,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Because their whereabouts are unknown and necessary safeguards are not in place, they are at high risk of torture and other abuses.”

On December 30, 2014, armed men attacked the State House in the capital, Banjul, but were repelled by Gambian security forces. In the days that followed, state security agents, including soldiers and plainclothes National Intelligence Agency (NIA) agents, picked up the associates, friends, and family members of people accused of involvement in the coup attempt. Those detained were taken to the intelligence agency’s headquarters, where most are believed to have been held incommunicado since.

A number of family members of detainees have told Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch about the detention of their loved ones. But many are afraid to speak out. Relatives outside the country have told the two organizations that some family members have been threatened with arrest by state security officials if they continue to seek the whereabouts of their relatives.

The United Nations special rapporteur on torture reported in March 2015 that at least 52 people had been detained, most by men in civilian clothing thought to work for the state intelligence agency. Several were released between February and May, and it is unclear how many still remain in incommunicado detention.

One of the relatives being held is Yusupha Lowe, the 16-year-old son of Bai Lowe, a man suspected of taking part in the December 2014 coup and then fleeing the country. Gambians in the diaspora, using social media, began a campaign for the child’s release in late April 2015. His family received informal reports that he had been held at the intelligence headquarters in Banjul since January but credible sources in recent days have told Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch that he is no longer there. The government has refused to provide information about his whereabouts to family members and there are growing concerns about his safety.

Mariam Njie, the mother of Alhaji Jaja Nass, who was killed during the attempted coup, was detained on January 5, and relatives believe she was taken to the intelligence agency headquarters. Meta Njie, the mother of Col. Lamin Sanneh, who was also killed during the attempted coup, was detained on January 1. Authorities have not released any information about her whereabouts and family members have not had responses to their inquiries. Both women are in their late 60s.

Essa Bojang, the father of a suspected coup plotter, Dawda Bojang, who fled after the attack, was picked up by plainclothes men thought to be intelligence agents and uniformed soldiers on January 1. He is also in his 60s and has a physical disability. Relatives believe he is being held at the intelligence agency headquarters but have had no response from authorities to requests for information about his whereabouts and wellbeing.

Prolonged incommunicado detention and other due process violations flout Gambia’s obligations under its own constitution, which requires authorities to bring detainees before a court of law within 72 hours. It is also against Gambia’s obligations under the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

In March, a secret military court sentenced three soldiers to death and three other soldiers to life in prison on charges of treason, desertion, conspiracy, and mutiny, relating to their alleged involvement in the failed coup. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch believe they did not receive a fair trial with adequate legal representation. Three other men were killed in the attempted coup. Despite repeated requests, family members have yet to receive the bodies.

 On January 14, President Yahya Jammeh announced his government’s willingness to work closely with the UN to investigate the events of December 30, 2014. On February 28, 2015, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights issued a resolution seeking an invitation to conduct a fact-finding mission. However, no independent investigation has taken place.

“These long, cruel detentions outside of any semblance of a legal process or investigation violate the most basic human rights and are penalized under international law,” said Sabrina Mahtani, West Africa researcher at Amnesty International. “Snatching people up and holding them this way will only further instill fear and distrust among Gambians.”

African states, UN and EU urge dialogue in Burundi


World | Mon May 25, 2015

U.N., EU, Africa urge dialogue in Burundi after politician’s killing

The United Nations, the European Union and African nations urged Burundi’s government and the opposition on Sunday not to let violence derail dialogue, after an opposition politician was shot dead and some groups said they were boycotting talks.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and others condemned the killing by unidentified gunmen on Saturday of Zedi Feruzi, the head of the UPD party, who opposed President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third five-year term.
Nkurunziza’s decision to run again has triggered the worst crisis in the small African country since the end of an ethnically charged civil war in 2005. The longer unrest lasts, the more chance of a return to ethnic violence, diplomats say.
U.N. special envoy to the region, Said Djinnit, the African Union and other regional African states have been sponsoring dialogue between rival sides since May 5 to end the crisis.
“They strongly urge all participants to remain fully engaged in the dialogue,” the sponsors said in a joint statement after the latest round of talks in Bujumbura on Sunday that were boycotted by some parties and civil society groups.
Separately, the EU, the biggest donor to aid-reliant Burundi, urged “all parties to engage in good faith” in talks.
Opponents say Nkurunziza’s re-election bid violates a two-term limit in the constitution and a peace deal that ended civil conflict. Protesters have regularly clashed with police in the past month and unrest provoked a failed military coup on May 13.
The president, who has called protests an “insurrection”, points to a constitutional court ruling that said his first term, when he was picked by parliament not a popular vote, did not count. He has shown no signs of backing down from his bid.
The U.N. secretary-general called on parties involved in talks “not to be deterred by those who, through violence, seek to prevent the creation of an environment conducive to peaceful, credible and inclusive elections in Burundi,” his office said.
A presidential vote is scheduled for June 26, while parliamentary and local council polls are due on June 5, after a delay of just over a week in the wake of the unrest.
Following Feruzi’s killing, Anshere Nikoyagize, the head of the civil society group Ligue ITEKA, told Reuters that civil society groups and opposition parties would not attend the dialogue, which began this month. But he did not name them.
“We can’t negotiate with the president of the republic with regards to the violation of the constitution or the violation of the Arusha accord. It is impossible,” said Frederick Bamvuginyumvira, vice president of opposition party Frodebu.
Willy Nyamitwe, presidential media adviser, told Reuters that Sunday’s talks had gone ahead with some civil society groups and two parties, but also did not provide a list. Burundi has dozens of registered parties.
“The main objective is to find ways of coming out of this situation,” Nyamitwe said. “This situation is going out of control.”
Burundi’s crisis has set the region that has a history of ethnic conflict on edge. More than 110,000 Burundians – about 1 percent of the country’s population – have already fled across the border for fear violence will spread outside the capital.
Till now, there has been little sign of progress in bridging differences between the two camps. The president has insisted he will follow his party’s call to stand again, while opponents say protests will continue until he ends his bid.
The Red Cross has said the death toll based on people its workers have seen killed stands at about 20. Emergency workers say that the total number could be double that.
(Additional reporting by Louis Charbonneau in New York and Barbara Lewis in Brussels; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

South Africa – Zuma says schoolchildren to learn African anthem; xenophobia

Mail and Guardian

All South African schoolgoers will have to learn the African Union anthem, President Jacob Zuma announced at Africa Day celebrations in Pretoria on Sunday. 

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma
“Starting today every school, church or community, choirs and individuals must practise the African Union anthem, so that we can sing [it] at all our important gatherings and celebrations,” Zuma told the crowd at the Africa Day celebrations, which took place at the University of Pretoria’s Mamelodi campus.
“If we start with our generation now that they sing it and understand it in schools, we have begun to plant a patriotism that will never go away to our citizens.”
Zuma urged South African institutions and companies to begin flying the African Union flag together with the South African flag. Africa Day falls on May 25 each year and marks the day the Organisation of African Unity, known today as the African Union, was founded in 1963. 
Part of the day’s festivities included music performed by a South Africa Police Service band, to which President Zuma and other prominent guest speakers on the stage (such as African Union Commission chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma) danced enthusiastically. South Africa has also a month-long celebration of what it means to be African, launched on April 1, with a number of cultural activities on offer.
South Africans not xenophobic

The issue of xenophobia, which has been blamed for a number of violent incidents in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng recently, was unavoidable on the day. Zuma insisted xenophobia was not entrenched in South Africa. 
“South Africans are not xenophobic, there are elements of criminality that conduct criminal activities to rob people of their goods, that pretend they are xenophobic. I think it is important for us to be aware of these very simple facts,” he told the crowd.
He said the media had reported on the violence and the xenophobic element in an “exaggerated fashion”. 
Dlamini-Zuma also addressed the crowd on the issue of xenophobia. She said when she was growing up in South Africa she had thought it was the most diverse African country. “So we must deal with this aberration of people who beat up someone and say it’s because they are not from here. It’s not South African. South Africans really are very diverse.”
The AU Commission chair said it was painful to watch recent incidents unfold from Ethiopia, where she now resides. “What warmed our hearts is when we saw the South Africans led by the president and the government in their formations … coming out and saying ‘no we are South Africans, we are Africans’,” she said.
“Our fortunes in Africa are intertwined, there is not a country that can develop to its full potential without the rest of Africa developing. So we are one continent, one people, one destiny and that is how we should look at it.”
Lisa Steyn is a business reporter at the Mail & Guardian.

Read more from Lisa Steyn

Twitter: @Lisa4president




Burundi opposition party leader shot as protests continue

Mail and Guardian

Burundi opposition leader Feruzi murdered, gunmen wore uniforms like Nkurunziza’s guards but presidency denies role

24 MAY 2015

The attack came a day after a grenade assault on a busy market killed three people and injured around 40 others.

 A protestor opposed to the Burundian president’s third term throws material onto a burning barricade in the Kinanira neighborhood of Bujumbura on May 21, 2015. (Photo/AFP). A protestor opposed to the Burundian president’s third term throws material onto a burning barricade in the Kinanira neighborhood of Bujumbura on May 21, 2015. (Photo/AFP).

THE leader of a small Burundian opposition party was shot dead on Saturday, residents said, the latest violence in a country gripped by weeks of protests over the president’s controversial bid to seek a third term.
Zedi Feruzi, the head of the Union for Peace and Development (UPD) was walking home under police protection in Bujumbura’s Ngagara district when he came under fire, locals told AFP, adding that one of the three officers accompanying him was also killed in the incident.
The unknown gunmen were able to flee the scene in a car.
An AFP reporter saw the bloodied bodies of both Feruzi and a police bodyguard lying outside the house soon after the shooting.
The attack—which comes a day after a grenade attack on a busy market killed three people and injured around 40 others—risks further fuelling tensions in the capital where a heavy-handed crackdown on anti-government demos has left more than 20 people dead since late April.
The crisis also sparked a failed coup against President Pierre Nkurunziza last week.
Saturday’s shooting brought a dramatic end to what had been a rare day of calm in the city after protest leaders called for a pause in the demos to allow people to stock up on supplies and bury their dead.
“We heard around 20 gunshots, everyone fell to the ground, people saw a Toyota car speeding away,” said a resident in the Ngagara district, who did not himself witness Feruzi’s shooting.
A police officer who was among those tasked with protecting Feruzi was seriously injured in the hail of bullets.
“We were returning on foot when a Toyota IT pulled up alongside us and the men inside opened fire on us,” the officer, who did not give his name, told AFP from his hospital bed. “I fell, I don’t know what happened after.”
Radio journalist Jean-Baptiste Bireha said he was talking with Feruzi at the precise moment when the attackers appeared and started firing. He said the gunmen were clad in uniforms similar to those worn by the presidential guard.
“When they left, they were shouting and singing, they threw some grenades to scare us,” said Bireha, who was unharmed.
But the presidency denied any involvement, saying it was “shocked” by the killings which it said should be urgently investigated “so the guilty are brought to justice”.
In the wake of the shooting local youths sealed off streets and alleyways to outsiders, while two barricades of tyres were set alight in the district.
Grenade attack 
The attack signals another escalation in violence in Bujumbura after the attack on the market Friday.
Police have said they are questioning a suspect in the grenade attack, which they blamed on the anti-government demonstrators.
But civil society leader Vital Nshimirimana, a key organiser of the protests, dismissed the accusation, and called for the international community to investigate.
“We have obviously nothing to do with these grenade attacks,” Nshimirimana said. “Police are trying to demonise us to justify the fact that they shot and killed unarmed demonstrators.”
Meanwhile another civil society leader, Pacifique Nininahazwe, on Friday announced a weekend truce “to allow the people to bury with dignity those who died for democracy.” 
But he warned that “protests will resume on Monday with even more force.”
In a small sign of progress, he added that discreet talks had begun this week between the protesters, opposition parties and the government.
The negotiations have been supported by the United Nations, African Union and regional nations.
Burundi’s crisis, which began in late April after the ruling party nominated Nkurunziza to stand again in the June 26 presidential election, deepened last week when a top general staged a failed coup attempt.
Parliamentary polls, initially set for May 26, have been postponed to June 5.
Cholera outbreak 
Opposition and rights groups say that Nkurunziza’s bid for a third five-year term violates the constitution and conditions of a peace deal that ended a 13-year civil war in 2006.
Nkurunziza, a former rebel leader and born-again Christian who believes he has divine backing to lead the country, argues that his first term did not count as he was elected by parliament, not directly by the people.
Refugees continue to flee the violence, most of them to neighbouring Tanzania, where over 50,000 people are struggling to survive in dire conditions on the shores of Lake Tanganyika.
Cholera has broken out in squalid camps there, with at least 31 people having died among a total of over 3,000 cases of the disease, with numbers growing by up to 400 cases a day, according to the UN refugee agency.


African Union renews call for South Sudan arms embargo

Sudan Tribune


May 23, 2015 (KAMPALA) – The African Union has supported calls for an arms embargo on South Sudan as fighting resumed between its warring parties, in violation of the cessations of hostilities agreement.

Soldiers from the South Sudanese army (SPLA) on guard in Bentiu, the capital of South Sudan’s Unity state on 12 January 2014 (Photo: Reuters)

The AU commission, at the meeting held in Namibia, had briefed its Peace and Security Council on the developments and situation in South Sudan.
The Council expressed its concern over the deteriorating situation in South Sudan, including the escalation of hostilities and the grave humanitarian situation of civilians affected by the ongoing conflict.
The continental body criticised the warring parties for abandoning dialogue and resorting to war as a way to end their impasse.
The Council further noted that the people of South Sudan have already been devastated by war, and that the current escalation threatens to unleash irreversible consequences on the young nation.
“[The] council strongly condemned the resumption of hostilities in South Sudan and the untold suffering inflicted on the civilian population, in total disregard of International Humanitarian Law,” the AU said in a statement.
It further expressed deep disappointment over the failure of the leaders of the belligerent parties in South Sudan to rise above personal and factional political interests and put the national interest and well-being of their people first.
The council has stressed that these actions are wholly contrary to the expressed will of the AU, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development, UN and the international community as a whole.
“In this regard, [the] council called for urgent steps by the sanctions committee, established pursuant to resolution 2206 (2015), to designate individuals and entities subject to the measures provided for therein. Council requested the UN Security Council to urgently consider the immediate imposition of an arms embargo on the belligerents,” its statement further read.
Meanwhile, the council reiterated its commitment to extend full support to the IGAD mediation efforts in South Sudan, notably through the early operationalisation of the AU High-Level ad hoc Committee, established by the Peace and Security Council in December 2014, and other related measures.

South Africa – no protection from xenophobia

Mail and Guardian


Xenophobia: ‘They know they can kill us and we can’t do a thing’

The police and army’s Operation Fiela is only fuelling xenophobia, say NGOs and visitors from nearby countries.


 Many foreigners run and hide when they see police officers. Those who don’t risk being rounded up and arrested. (Mujahid Safodien, AFP)

Since the police and the army started Operation Fiela shortly after the xenophobic attacks a month ago, more than 1?650 foreigners have been arrested.

The police say that among those arrested were two Ethiopians accused of child trafficking, a Zimbab­wean man was found in possession of explosives worth about R100 000 and two murder suspects were also arrested in Dobsonville.

A Mozambican was arrested at the Lebombo border post with more than 2kg of ephedrine, and copper and gold worth around R24-million was seized at the Beitbridge border post.

But despite the apparent success of the anti-crime operation, a coalition of nongovernmental organisations, including Lawyers for Human Rights, Médecins Sans Frontières, Section27, Corruption Watch, Africa Diaspora Forum and Awethu, has criticised Operation Fiela for perpetuating xenophobia.

They say the campaign is unfairly targeting foreign nationals and mistakenly equates the presence of undocumented foreigners in South Africa with crime.

Below, five foreign refugees tell of their hopes and fears for their future in South Africa


Lucas Machel (25), a bricklayer from Mozambique

Machel has been living in South Africa since 2008. Four months ago, his work permit expired. He now feels uncertain about his future.

Since Operation Fiela was intensified, he finds it hard to do his job. In the early hours of last Monday, he and other foreigners were dropped off at the Johannesburg house they are renovating. An unmarked car packed with policemen suddenly appeared. They all ran for their lives. Some hid in an outside room, others jumped over walls into neighbours’ yards. Only the project manager who had the correct documents remained behind. “Eish, now things are difficult again,” says Machel. “People here no longer want us, they say we should go back home.”

With the little money he earns he pays rent, his children’s school fees and sends home what’s left. Because he is paid daily, he cannot afford to miss work.

“Since I don’t have a permit, I’m thinking of going to Pretoria to apply, but money is scarce.”

Two of his three children are in Mozambique and one is in South Africa. Machel is worried about his little boy. He asks: “If I’m sent back home, who’s going to support him?”


Kazango Elizee (38), a teacher and priest from the DRC

Elizee’s provocative preaching about corruption in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) got him into trouble with the law there. In 2001 he had to flee for his life in the back of a truck. “I found myself in Johannesburg by default,” he says. “I did not know where the driver was taking me but I knew I was going to be alive.”

Elizee met and married his soulmate in South Africa. Life was bliss until the 2008 xenophobic attacks began. His wife was raped while pregnant with their second child and they lost all their possessions when they were forced to move out of the place they were renting near Thokoza on the East Rand.

Elizee and his family now live in a shelter in Randfontein. He is a qualified teacher but cannot find work. “It’s terrible. I cannot get a job, cannot open a bank account. I feel insecure. It’s like hell. What can I do?

“I need protection from somewhere. South Africa is our country; it’s in Africa.” Elizee says the protection he seeks can only come from the department of home affairs in the form of refugee papers, but he is reluctant to visit because he has experienced xenophobia at their offices.

Even though he has lived in South Africa for 16 years, he is still an asylum seeker. All his children were born here but they don’t have rights as the locals do.

“What South Africans are doing, beating people, is the same way they treat us in the office,” he says. “


Shakina Murhububa (28), a hairdresser from the DRC

“When you are free, you can do something with your life,” says Murhububa, who lives in Pretoria West in a single room in a building once used as a student dormitory. “I’m like a slave person. I have kids. I don’t have money. I cannot get a job.”

She unlocks her door and her three children ­– Victoria, Sarah and Samuel – come to greet her. Her bed takes up almost the entire room. With a TV and a fridge, there’s not much space left.

Because of the political upheaval and a broken family, Murhububa had to flee her country. She got here with her children on the back of a truck in 2012. She struggled to find a place until a man offered her one. After a few weeks he demanded sex in exchange. She fell pregnant and the man vanished. Now she survives by plaiting people’s hair and washing clothes. Her charges vary according to what the customer can afford.

She adds: “Sometimes I struggle paying the rent. Life here is difficult. There is no food to feed the kids as we speak.”

When she has a serious problem she doesn’t bother to lay a charge. Police usually tell her to go back where she comes from. “Once they see that you cannot speak Sotho or Zulu, they know that you are a foreigner already and since there is xenophobia, everyone takes advantage.

“They know they can kill us and we cannot do anything.”


Yemani Embaye (30), a businessman from Eritrea

In 2007, Embaye bribed his way to South Africa, after fleeing his home for political reasons – he was conscripted to serve in the army.

He says: “I heard SA is a free country and I decided to live here.”

Embaye got his temporary asylum permit and for a while things went well for him until he wanted a permanent permit. He claims the home affairs offices in Marabastad demanded a bribe. He did not have money then and is still undocumented. Embaye went to Lawyers for Human Rights, who wrote him “a letter that states that my application is in review”, he says. “I should produce it when the police want to see my papers.” Luckily, he has not been asked yet. “I’m not sure the police will accept it, but if I see police on the streets, I hide.”

Embaye can speak both Sesotho and Sepedi. He is married to a South African woman and they have a daughter – “I feel very welcomed here,” he says.

When I ask him about Operation Fiela and how it might affect his life, he takes a moment to respond. “Whatever will happen, I will stay here,” he says. “I cannot go back home. If I go back, they will kill me.”

Police ask for R3 000 ‘token of appreciation’ to free detainee

The 34-year-old is a Zimbabwean from Harare. He is married with two children and sends money home to them from South Africa.

He was a sales agent when he left school and then worked for his father’s business as a building contractor. When the farm invasions happened, there was no work and times were hard. He finally came to South Africa five months ago. This is what happened to him on Tuesday morning: “I was in a taxi rank in Howick at about 5.45am. [It] was very busy. I was about to board the taxi when 12 armed police officers stopped us. There were some regular police and some traffic police.

“I was asked a question in Zulu. My Zulu is not very good and when they heard me stammering to answer, they asked me about my documents: passport and work permit. I didn’t have any documents with me so I was arrested.

“I was taken in the back of a Nissan bakkie with a canopy with two other guys, one a Zimbabwean like me and one a Malawian. An Indian officer sat with us. He was tall and fat; he read us our rights and made us turn off our phones. Then he said: ‘This operation is going to happen nationwide for a month. People are smuggling drugs and selling them in our country. We no longer need foreigners here – you must go back to your countries. Our children are suffering; they don’t have work or anything to do. You are coming here and doing bad things and criminal stuff. Go back to your country.’

“We were taken to the central police station in Pietermaritzburg and when we got there I counted 22 other people who had been arrested. Some had documents with them, but they had overstayed their permits and were told they would go to prison for two months and then be deported.

“There were two black officers speaking to us; one spoke Zulu and the other English. I saw the name badge of the one who spoke English. It said ‘Ndlovu’. Those of us who had no documents were told that we needed to show ‘a token of our appreciation – give us something so that we can let you go’. I asked for my phone so that I could speak to my boss, but Mr Ndlovu wouldn’t give it to me. I said to him: ‘How can I show my appreciation if you won’t let me speak to my boss?’ He said no, but that I would be held for five or six hours and then [I would be] given my phone to speak to my boss.

“The figure mentioned was R3 000. Nobody among the 22 who were arrested with me had that much money. A few had some money; one guy I saw paid R1 500, a few others R1 000, and in all, 13 guys paid and were allowed to go straight away, but I had nothing so I had to stay.

“During the day I saw three people arrive with cash in their hands to pay bribes to set guys free. The process was the guy who was being set free would be told by the police there was someone to see him and they would be taken into another room. One of the guys with us had been arrested four times before and he explained that if we didn’t see the guy again it meant his bribe had been accepted and he was set free. I think all the bribe money goes to one person and at the end of the day they share it out among themselves.

“Eventually I was given my phone back and I got hold of my brother. He managed to borrow R800 from his boss and he came to the police station to pay at 6pm. They told him it wasn’t enough and that he must go and find more. So they kept me overnight. I could hear noises coming from the cells next to mine, and I learned from some of the guys who were arrested with me that they were assaulted. They told me they were made to lie on the ground and were hit on the back with batons.

“I wasn’t assaulted and my brother came back at 6am and begged them to release me. He told the police that he couldn’t get any more money and they said it’s not enough. He said: ‘I can’t get any more. If it’s not enough just take the money and send him home.’ Then they came to me and said: ‘We don’t want to see you again. Go with your brother.’

“When I left there were six guys who were arrested with me still there. One was from Mozambique and there were also a couple of Nigerians. We are all now living in fear in this country. It is not so simple to just tell us to go home. There is nothing for us at home. No work and no money to live.”o