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Revisiting The Burning Man

Revisiting The Burning Man

In April the Journalism Programme screened ‘The Burning Man’, a documentary depicting the life of Mozambique’s Ernesto Alfabeto Nhamuave who had been beaten, stabbed and set on fire by an angry mob during the 2008 xenophobic attacks in South Africa in which 68 people were killed in a little more than two weeks.

The screening of the documentary was followed by a brief discussion on the violence perpetrated against mainly African ‘foreign nationals’.

Nhamuave became known as the ‘burning man’ after horrifying photographs of his murder were splashed across newspapers around the world after being captured by photojournalists; becoming a symbol of xenophobic violence in South Africa.

The documentary tells the tragic story of the simple 35-year-old builder who lived with his brother-in-law; Francisco, in the Ramaphosa settlement, an informal settlement east of Johannesburg, where they were renting a shack. It also shows the aftermath of Nhamuave’s family tragedy and life in their village of Vuca near Homoine in Southern Mozambique.

According to Professor Anthony Collins from the University’s Journalism Programme, the documentary avoids sensationalising the well-known images and instead provides a sensitive exploration of Nhamuave himself.

Prof Collins’ work focuses on crime and violence. He is involved with community-work dealing with issues ranging from gender-based violence to xenophobia.

Businesswoman, Hlengiwe Zondo, who attended the screening said it was imperative for South Africans to understand the xenophobic violence and its underlying issues.

“As a society and as a government, we have been passive about it [xenophobic violence]. We must have conversations as communities about this. It’s important that we individually understand our contributions and the role we play. Young people need to be involved and play a part in being active against any form of hate violence. So, if you see a family speaking about hateful crimes, reject it,” she said.

Ndumiso Ngidi, Student Development Practitioner in the Student Governance and Development Department at DUT, said some South Africans did not recognise foreigners a human. Ngidi’s interests and research are on gender-based violence, HIV prevention, youth in the townships and human rights.

In February this year the Sunday Times Newspaper reported that police closed Nhamuave’s case on 27 October 2010 after concluding that there were no witnesses and no suspects.

The paper also wrote that the spot where Nhamuave was killed is now a bustling taxi rank with new paving.

– Andile Dube

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