South Africa: fear of the unknown
20 June 2010

Distressed refugee watches his former home burn, Pretoria, South Africa
There are rumours everywhere that all foreigners will be attacked. I am waiting in anticipation. I am scared and feel threatened. I do not know what to do.
Voices on World Refugee Day

My name is Tshela Mukendi and I am a single mother of six from the Democratic Republic of Congo. I have seen death; I have smelt it and I have touched it.

Through the grace of God, I was able to survive. I found refuge in South Africa. But today I am afraid. I am afraid of death. I thought I could put the thought of death behind me; but today in South Africa I am living in fear of death.

In 1992, I was able to find solitude and peace. I was in South Africa. I was able to sit back and embrace the future with my children. I found work as an interpreter and house-keeper at JRS in Pretoria. My children were going to school and we were surviving.

Just before the May 2008 xenophobic attacks, as many refugees and asylum seekers were preparing for the worst, we were fortunate. We were protected. Our community leaders stressed that no violence will take place in Ga-Rankuwa, North of Pretoria. And there was no violence in Ga-Rankuwa. We were safe. We were not harmed. We lived under the protection of our community and neighbours.

The announcement of FIFA in 2005 that the 2010 World Cup would be held in South Africa brought so much hope for the whole continent of Africa. There was excitement, not only because this prestigious event would be held in Africa for the first time, but some of us saw this as an opportunity for Africa to unite.

Today everything is different. Today I am singing a different tune. I am cursing the day that it was announced that the World Cup would be held in South Africa. The end of the 2010 World Cup is the ultimatum I have been given to stay in South Africa.

There are rumours everywhere that all foreigners will be attacked. I am waiting in anticipation. I am scared and feel threatened. I do not know what to do. It feels like my own community has turned against me and my children. They are threatening us now. They have told us that it’s high time that we go back to our own country.

I have until the 12 July to leave this country, I have been told. All I sense is fear. Only time will tell!