The attackers beat Alison Goldberg of Green Point to the ground before smashing the window of their 4x4 with a hammer and trying to drag her 16-year-old daughter Lili out of the car.
Lili, a Grade 10 pupil at St Cyprian's, had been sitting in the back of the car passing clothes and blankets through an open window to her mother who was distributing them to the refugees.
During the frightening attack two weeks ago, Goldberg said all she could hear was her daughter screaming.
"They threatened to put her down a manhole and she was terrified they would kill me and leave her down there."
Goldberg got around to the driver's side but the men refused to let them drive away. She eventually just opened the vehicle so they could take the bags of clothes and blankets.
The Zimbabweans tried to help but were no match for the aggressive locals who were determined not to share with foreigners.
"I told them there was enough for everyone but it was every man for himself," said Goldberg, who was badly bruised in the incident.
Lili is recovering in hospital. Despite being traumatised she has no plans to give up the initiative which started off as a three-month school community project. It involved serving a hot lunch to refugees each Saturday outside the Service Dining Rooms in Canterbury Street to supplement their Monday to Friday meals, which are available for just five cents.
Lili roped in her mother, friends and family and each weekend took two 25kg pots of rice and mince to feed the desperate refugees, who otherwise would go hungry over the weekends.
When the school project came to an end she joined up with the Adonis Musati Project, named after the Zimbabwean refugee who died of hunger on the pavement outside the Home Affairs reception centre in November.
The group, started by five women, provides meals and assists refugees with rented accommodation and training courses to help them get jobs.
Goldberg said they later started taking food directly to the Foreshore camp to prevent refugees running the risk of being attacked or picked up by police on their way to the Service Dining Rooms.
The squalid makeshift camp, which is home to some 1 000 desperate, hungry asylum-seekers, is a bleak and hopeless place.
There are insufficient toilets and no running water. The pervasive aroma of dagga is welcome because it takes the edge off the stench of human waste.
Listless children sit with their parents waiting for the bus to Barrack Street where, if they are lucky, their papers will be processed at Home Affairs. But it is a long, grim wait and stories have emerged of fellow refugees extorting people for a prime position in the front of the queue.
Goldberg says the camp has deteriorated in the past three months and, with the recent rain, sewage was overflowing and rats were running rampant.
"It's a disease time-bomb. I've phoned the cleansing department at least five times to appeal for bins or for the rubbish at least to be collected but nothing has happened."
Some of the refugees have been robbed of even their meagre belongings.
Rest Mapfumo, a 21-year-old Zimbabwean, said he didn't like staying at the camp but the thought of going home wasn't appealing either when even professional people couldn't make enough to put food on the table.
He had temporary papers but when he found accommodation in Philippi he was robbed one night by his neighbours.
One man pulled out his O Level certificate from a bag around his shoulder. It showed straight As in maths and physics. But he knows he'll be lucky to get work as a gardener.
St Cyprian's teacher and fellow volunteer Colleen Kirk-Cohen said many refugees were university graduates. "One guy can teach matric maths but he's sitting here without a job."