Disturbing images of chaos flashed through her mind as she firmly clutched her two year old daughter close to her bosom in a grip that was strong enough to suffocate the young one. She slowly muttered prayers in the native Makhuwa language of her home town, Port D’uoro, Mozambique. Her solemn state was suddenly ushered back into its initial state of fear and panic as the frightening noises of the rioters on her street came to her. What exactly is their aim? Who or what are they protesting against? These questions ran through Xiluva’s head as she walked over to the window and peeped out into the streets. They were not yet on her street but she could hear some of the protesters cursing foreigners in Afrikaans, a language she understood but could not speak fluently.
Xiluva sighed as she allowed herself a tentative assurance of hers and Gabrielle’s safety. It is probably a fight between the native Sibasa people of South Africa against the foreigners but even as she tried to assure herself, another question came to her mind. Why had her neighbour banged her door earlier, threatening her to come out? Wasn’t it supposed to be a protest against foreigners? She had no answers to this as she had never imagined herself a foreigner since the four years when she first crossed the border from her homeland in Mozambique to South Africa. She whirled around in fear when another bang came on the door, maybe the danger was not yet over. But this time it wasn’t her neighbour. It was her Nigerian customer who preferred to purchase goods from her directly in the house. Despite hearing the familiar voice of Chinyere, she approached the door cautiously.
“Xiluva please open the door,” Xiluva hesistaed but another urgent bang from Chinyere followed by an exclamation and Xiluva hurriedly placed Gabrielle on a sofa and stood behind the door, “what’s the matter?” She asked,resting the side of her head on the door as if to hear Chinyere better
“Please I shouldn’t be found loitering around this neighborhood, I think the Zulu Boys’ Syndrome has infected the Sibasa boys too,they’re unleashing terror on foreigners outside, I managed to get in here without being noticed.” Xiluva opened the door then and Chinyere entered the room hurriedly. Xiluva noticed Chinyere was just as scared as she was.
“I saw them molesting two black men, I thought it was just a normal domestic violence until my neighbour started banging on my door and telling me to go on the street so I could be molested,she cursed me a lot but I was too afraid to answer her, I pretended I wasn’t home, I don’t understand the issue. I heard them cursing and abusing foreigners too and for once I thought they were against the white people until I saw them beating up blacks ; I even tried calling my husband but…” Chinyere interrupted her by standing up to check on Gabrielle, “Chubby mama. Xiluva, what have you been feeding her? Look her her cheeks.”
“Chinyere the noise is still on outside, ain’t you scared anymore?” Chinyere looked at her for a long time before she finally replied, “it’s my 20th year in South Africa, I have witnessed worse scenarios, I just feel safe in here because I know the riot won’t last the whole day.”
“I wonder why they treat us this way though,” Xiluva said looking at the older woman with fear in her eyes.
“You really want to know why? It’s because we tend to outsmart them in every aspect, it’s not our fault – its the survival instinct in us as foreigners and also their laxity as indigenes. I will just call it intimidation.”
Xiluva sighed, “but I hear them say Ubuntu every time,what has happened to the practice of their Ubuntu?”
“Ubuntu is a relative term my dear and in this case it only works among themselves.”
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