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Foreigners tell of horror being caught in fight between taxi drivers, drug dealers


'It is a dog-eat-dog world and so we loot, and believe me, I talk for many people on the streets.'

Caroline Rivwizhi cries seeing her shack go up in flames in Marabastad. The fire was started by taxi drivers, who accused them of supporting drug dealers. Picture: Bongani Shilubane/African News Agency (ANA)

Pretoria – Some were in favour of taxi drivers taking the law into their own hands to deal with drug pushers and users while others felt remorseful about the outcome. Meanwhile some just mourned the chaos of the past few days when people went on the rampage in the city of Tshwane to salvage what they could of their lives.

One of these is Caroline Rivwizhi, 26, who sobbed as her belongings, including clothes, money, food and appliances, were gutted at her Marabastad dwelling during the protest.

Carrying her daughter and trying to feed her son, tears rolled down her cheeks as she told the Pretoria News her life story.

“I came here in 2013 after I fled Zimbabwe because of lack of jobs and poverty. Yes, I do admit that I am here illegally, but I really had no choice.

“It is bad that side (Zimbabwe), especially for women. But I don’t sell nyaope. I don’t like nyaope and I don’t want my children to do nyaope. So why are our own brothers and sisters attacking us and trying to kill us (for nyaope)?

“I have weathered xenophobic attacks and insults against me and my family enough times to know that we are not safe here. We are caught between a rock and a hard place, because we can’t go back home to that poverty.”

A taxi driver, who asked not to be named, said he had watched the Bloed Street Mall Taxi Rank “go rotten” over the years, which affected their business.

“I’ve been a taxi driver for the past 22 years and I can say without fear that the fight against drugs in our place of work needs us to attend to it, because the police don’t care. There is a serious problem,” he said.

“The problem of drugs is killing our country. If anyone wants to stand in our way, they must just go, we will get rid of them,” he warned.

Caroline Rivwizhi, 26, is one of the people who lost her shack after a fire during the taxi violence in Marabastad. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency(ANA)

“Some of the people who use taxis are avoiding certain taxi ranks due to the prevalence of drug dealers harassing them. This leads to them using another rank and the taxi owners and drivers losing their source of income.

“There are individuals who have taken it upon themselves to take matters further than simply asking where to find the drug dealers. They have been implicated in various assaults and other acts of violence which should not be associated with the initial idea of our clean-up operation.”

A looter and nyaope user known as “Cyrus the Virus” said: “In an ideal world people won’t loot and take advantage of protests like these, but this is not an ideal world.

“People steal to feed their families. Just try to imagine your wife always complaining that you don’t provide them with food and baby clothes, then all of a sudden you are walking in town and there’s a shop with all that you need.

“Will you honestly walk by or will you sacrifice for you family? People are being retrenched, some don’t have qualifications because their parents couldn’t afford to take them to school.

Scene of devastation after shacks were burnt down by angry protesters in Marabastad. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency(ANA)

“It is a dog-eat-dog world and so we loot, and believe me, I talk for many people on the streets. Try going to bed for three nights without food and then all of a sudden you have an open bakery being looted, are you going to sit there?

“It started in 2007 when I lost my job. I became desperate for money and I attempted to sell nyaope. In less than three months as a dealer, I became addicted to the drug.

“The addiction started the day I decided to try out the drug. Depression, unemployment and a lack of skills are the factors that contributed to me abusing the drug.

“Now I can’t stop,” he said.

Pretoria News