“This Harare is not the same as the one back home”

The recent wave of xenophobic attacks have left a somewhat uneasy feeling among foreign nationals residing in some of the townships of South Africa. They are also scared because they do not know when xenophobia will rear its ugly head again especially now that service delivery protests are going to be on the rise in Cape Town’s winter.

Some of the townships in South Africa are named after towns of foreign countries.  One such township is Harare in Khayelitsha. It is named after  the capital city of Zimbabwe.

It is this connection that confuses some of the foreign nationals  in our townships. Why would you name your place Harare but not welcome a Zimbabwean from the original “Harare”, they ask?

Xenophobic attacks happen so spontaneously that foreign nationals live with constant fear. The fear is so visible that one can see it without looking too hard. The first wave of attacks happened in 2008 spreading around the country at an alarming rate that stalwarts like Archbishop Desmond Tutu condemned them harshly.

One Zimbabwean who lives with constant fear is Shephard Njovo, he hails from Harare in Zimbabwe. Njovo arrived in South Africa with one purpose in mind, to look for better economic conditions so he could feed his family back home. He has been in the country for eleven years now.

Njovo makes a living cutting hair. He owns a container which he converted into a barber shop just near the train station in Khayelitsha. The divorced father of three says life is not easy at all and the constant fear of these xenophobic attacks does not help matters much.

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“I came here to South Africa to work for my children. My wife and I are divorced. I send money back home to my kids every month. I don’t make a lot as I have to pay rent too as well as clothe myself and eat, says Njovo.

Njovo has to open seven days a week or otherwise he won’t make enough money for himself and his family.

“I cannot afford to not open, business is especially good on weekends. Most of my customers cut their hair on Saturday and Sunday. Barber business is really good in South Africa. It is much better than back at home in Zimbabwe,” he says.

Njovo says that the xenophobic attacks are uncalled for. “We are all Africans, why should we fight each other like this. I’m really scared that the attacks that happened in Durban and Gauteng will come here in Cape Town too. They happen unexpected. It is quiet here yes but i still don’t feel safe. But, as a man I have to work.”

“I can say my life has changed, it is better than it was at home. I come from a poor background but now at least I can afford to feed my family, my kids and send them to school.”

The township suburb of Harare makes up one the many in the major townships of Khayelitsha. It was built in the early 90s. It has grown to one of the better places in Khayelitsha and has a vibrant cultural mix of South Africans and foreign nationals living side by side.

The name Harare is derived from a Shona word, meaning “A place that doesn’t sleep.” Many Foreign nationals have adopted the place as their home away from home. Njovo says when he told them he was staying in Harare back home they laughed saying he left Harare for another Harare. “Most people don’t know what the word means, but this Harare is not the same as one back home. For us it’s our Capital City, here it’s just a location but it’s still beautiful,” Njovo says.

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Njovo says he wishes for peace and understanding between South Africans and foreign nationals.

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