I was made a foreigner in my own land

Nivashni Nair | 17 April, 2015 | TimesLIVE

But it was the hatred in their eyes that I will never forget.

In those few minutes I was made to feel like a foreigner in my own country.

The men who assailed me had been tearing down the steel awning of a supermarket that had been looted on Sunday night. They knew nothing about me and my photographer, Tebogo Letsie, but were ready to harm both of us because of the colour of my skin.

They did not know that Tebogo and I had been to KwaMashu numerous times and that we had helped save the life of a 15-year-old boy in 2010 by rushing him to hospital when we came across him bleeding from stab wounds after he’d been mugged outside his school.

They did not know that my grandparents, parents and I were born in South Africa and know no other home.

TimesLIVE xenophobia
The men who assailed me had been tearing down the steel awning of a supermarket that had been looted on Sunday night. File photo Image by: TEBOGO LETSIE

“We don’t want to talk to dogs, especially an Indian dog,” said one man, brandishing a hammer.

Armed with crowbars, hammers, axes and a broken bottle, the men encircled us. Tapping the end of a crowbar on his palm, one told Tebogo he had no right bringing an Indian into KwaMashu and that he would pay for doing so.

One of them made a hand gesture to show that my throat would be slit if we did not leave.

As I walked away, trembling, I wondered if the foreigners who had been attacked the night before had seen the hatred I saw in their eyes.

“Do you think they really would have killed us?” I asked Tebogo on the way out.

I knew he was putting on a brave face because I could see his trembling hands on the steering wheel.

“Yes, because they really didn’t want an Indian there,” he replied.

At that moment I realised that anyone who does not fit the perception of what a “real South African” should look like could experience the same hatred.

Because, when enraged, incited by misinformation and even afraid, these violent mobs see anyone who appears to be different, or who disagrees with them, as a target.

By Monday afternoon, after I had read numerous “Go back to India” posts on social media during the online debate about the defacing of the Mahatma Gandhi statue, I received a widely circulated message claiming that Indians were to be targeted once the foreigners had been driven out.

I could not immediately dismiss the claim because what I had experienced in KwaMashu gave some credence to it.

Although I have received hundreds of messages of support from South Africans of all races since my ordeal, I am still afraid.

But my anger is stronger than my fear – anger that our leaders have not shown leadership.

Apart from three ministers, three transit camps and 800 more police officers, they have not found a real solution to the mob mentality that threatens all of us. That they have failed to unite us.

South Africa is my country too, and I should be allowed to go to KwaMashu or anywhere else without fear. I too, with my red dot on my brown forehead, should be a face of the country.

Source: TimesLIVE


About Naufal Khan

Publisher & editor of Indian Spice.

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