Robertson municipality and farmers ignored warnings about ‘brewing tensions’

The Rural Legal Centre says they've long been warning the Robertson municipality and farmers about brewing worker tensions.

Zimbabwean and Lesotho communities are driving urgent efforts to end the violence in Robertson's Nkqubela Township.

CAPE TOWN - The Rural Legal Centre says they've long been warning the Robertson municipality and farmers about brewing worker tensions.

The township Nkqubela has been left traumatised after violent fighting among migrant workers from Lesotho and Zimbabwe began several days ago.

Centre field worker Denia Jansen said this struggle for farming jobs had seen fights between various groups, including Robertson locals, South Africans, and fellow African workers.

“Inner fights among local workers and migrant workers were ignored and now this is the outcome of our ignorance.”

The legal centre said they met with police last year following another clash to warn them of the imminent violence.

They then tried inviting the Langeberg municipality and surrounding farm owners to discuss an approach to the conflict.

Jansen said while they wait, the situation was likely to be tense given the current harvest season and desperation for jobs.

“It’s not about migrant workers against migrant workers. People are desperate for work. It’s harvest time now, and everyone wants to earn something. Our main objective is to brig peace. We all are workers, we all are poor and the poor are fighting each other for a piece of bread on the table.”

Despite our attempts, Eyewitness News has not received word back from the local government around their plans to intervene or assist.

TRYING TO RESTORE PEACE

A ward councillor in Nkgubela said he was trying his best to restore peace in the area.

Lungani Gxowa inspected the area on Saturday and said they were in urgent need of humanitarian aid.

“Most of the people can see that shacks have burn and they have lost everything, last night we have tried as councillors and other businesspeople to donor blanket from our own to assist the situation especially those who slept outside the Police Station, lots of women with young children, we can’t stand and do nothing, hence we try and join hand with Gift of the Givers and other people who can assist us.”

TARGETED ATTACKS

On Friday night, Zimbabwean and Lesotho men continued fighting among one another but that soon spilled over into the rest of the Nkqubela community.

Rival groups went door-to-door assaulting, robbing and destroying homes.

One South African woman said she and her neighbours were forced to prove they were locals to escape the violence.

“We feel very terrified because my kid was in the house. She crawled out of the bed and started crying out ‘I’m not Sotho, I’m Xhosa’ and that’s when they started questioning her. They ask ‘what is elbow in Xhosa’ because if you can’t say or pronounce the word, then they make a plan about you because they know you’re not Xhosa.”