Zimbabwean man caught in Cairo violence

ZIMBABWEAN man James Useni, who works at the South African embassy in Cairo, was trying to fall asleep after a busy day at work.

But just as he was dozing off he heard explosions, ran to a window and saw 12 army tanks parked near his home.

He then watched as protesters were beaten, shot and killed as they tried to set the vehicles alight. This happened on Saturday night.

“I just stayed quietly in my house last night and prayed. I said: ‘Oh God, just protect us from this situation.’ I am shivering as I tell you this. I watched people being killed when they tried to burn the tanks. I watched them die. At the time it was like watching a movie, but it was live and real. It is unpleasant and tense here … There are no planes, there is no internet and our cellphones don’t work,” Useni said on Sunday from the South African Embassy’s Cairo office.

According to the embassy’s database there were more than 100 South Africans, and scores of unregistered students, most from Cape Town, in and around Cairo where violent protests have continued for six days.

On Sunday, Malusi Mogale, international relations and co-operation ministry spokesman, said no official action had been taken to help South Africans in Egypt as this had not yet been deemed necessary.

Useni said he was waiting for orders as to whether South Africans would be evacuated.

Earlier on Sunday, he had heard gunshots which he believed came from a prison from which hundreds of convicts had fled.

“I’m just staying in my office. I don’t know what’s going to happen today or tomorrow. We’re not officially working. We’re advising South African citizens in Egypt to stay indoors. If there are any later developments, like evacuation orders, we’ll communicate this.”

Useni, originally from Zimbabwe and who has been working in Egypt for a decade, said: “Today I received a number of calls from South Africans wanting to know what to do. I gave them our emergency contact number. One person, his name’s Kevin, is very worried because he doesn’t have his passport. He sent it away to apply for a visa. Since Thursday I’ve been telling visiting South Africans, if you can, go home.

“But now there’s no transport into or out of Egypt. Two of our auditors tried to leave on Friday but slept at the airport for two nights before coming back here. There’s no transport running. I have to walk to work. With all the looting and killing, there’s clearly no one to protect us. When you walk in the streets now you have to carry a knife to protect yourself,” Useni said, his voice shaking.

Riad Fataar, a Mitchells Plain resident and Muslim Judicial Council executive member, said three of his children, a grandchild and son-in-law, were in Cairo.

“I’m in contact with them on the landline, all the time. Their cellphones are down and they have no internet, so thank goodness for the landline.”

His children, who had grown up in Cairo where he had lived for a decade, were students at Al-Azhar University there.

“Students living alone have been taken in where there’s a lot of people in a home … We know this must be extremely worrying for parents whose children have gone there recently. We know how you feel, just be positive that God Almighty will protect them. The students are in good condition.” – Cape Times