On Special Assignment at 21:30

A short-lived peace currently prevails in Rosettenville, Johannesburg South – a once sought-after residential area. For a long time, a growing population of foreign nationals has been living side by side with South Africans. But, it seems the recent events in the area have redefined the relationship between locals and foreign nationals.

What seems to have started as a peaceful community protest against drug and human trafficking in Rosettenville, soon escalated into a violent standoff between residents and members of the South African Police Service. The confrontation with police ignited the anger of residents and within a few hours, more than 13 alleged drug houses and brothels were burnt down. The torching of these houses points to high levels of tension in this community between South Africans and foreign nationals.

Rosettenville faces a litany of social ills. Besides poverty and unemployment, drug and human trafficking as well as prostitution are rife in the area.  Matshidiso Molefe is a concerned resident who witnessed the burning down of this house in Prairie Street and says that the protest was part of their “Reclaim our Community” campaign - a militant and aggressive community cleansing of Rosettenville. They claim their aim was to remove the mostly Nigerian foreign nationals from the alleged drug dens and brothels and accommodate homeless South Africans in those houses. But this has raised concern about the continued criminalisation of nationalities in South Africa – an indication of xenophobia also often resulting in violent attacks. Tsholoselo Sesanga from the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation considers the events of Rosettenville as a cry for help from the government. 

Special Assignment investigates the events that led to this eruption of violence in Rosettenville which has also seen hundreds of foreign nationals leaving the area or doing whatever it takes to protect their businesses.

Watch Ignited produced by Lee McCabe on Special Assignment broadcast Wednesdays on SABC 3 at 21h30

For more information contact the Special Assignment office on 011 714 5419

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