Obey Mangongo, from Zimbabwe, says soccer helped him form friendships with South Africans in the Dunoon community where he lives.
Mangongo, who left Zimbabwe last year in search of work, was one of the players in the soccer and netball tournament organised by Voice of Africa for Change and the Dunoon Youth Forum in Dunoon on Freedom Day.
Four soccer teams and four netball teams competed in the tournament which aims to bring immigrants and South Africans together to play sport.
“I always played soccer with two of my friends outside our shack until a team of locals approached us asking to join them. From the time of joining we are now able to walk freely in the streets, because we are now known,” said Mangongo.
Voice of Africa was formed in 2012 after the 2008 xenophobic attacks.
“After these attacks we realised that although asylum seekers and refugees have rights established in international conventions and South African law, they are often violated in practice,” said Germain Kalombo Ntambue, director of Voice of Africa for Change. He said the organisation had launched its first tournament in Dunoon because the area had no police station, “so should any violence erupt, people have no defence”.
“Engaging with residents and community leaders helps reduce tension between locals and foreigners.”
The nearest police station is about eight kilometres away in Milnerton.
“Whenever there is a protest foreign nationals are targeted and that is what we are trying to end. We are trying to bring foreigners to these events so that we live as one people,” said Yanga Nkohla, secretary of the Dunoon Youth Forum.
He said he hoped more immigrants would join in next time. Some might still have bad memories of 2008, said Nkohla. “Maybe that is why they did not turn up”.
Asisipo Xamlashe said she hoped to include more immigrants in her netball team. She said her team usually trained between 5pm and 7pm and she suspected that immigrants did not want to be away from their homes after 5pm.
“When people come together and cheer their teams they forget their differences,” said Antony Muteti of Voice of Africa for Change.
This article was first published by GroundUp.