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  • SA Urged to Tackle Xenophobia and Racism

    Navi Pillay, former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights says that South Africa urgently needs a national action plan to fight racism and xenophobia.

    Pillay, who was addressing the Women's Network in Durban, believes that government should consult the whole community on what form of action needs to be taken to address racism and xenophobia.

    Pillay, who is also a former International Criminal Court judge, maintains that: "I am always a human right protector and defender and I will continue to serve but in an informal capacity in whatever way I can."

    To read the article titled, “Govt needs to take tough stance against racism, xenophobia,” click here.

    SABC News
  • Somali and South Africa Tackle Xenophobia

    A Somali envoy has met the South African authorities in a bid to ease tensions stirred by recurring attacks on Somali refugees in the country.

    Somalia's deputy foreign minister, Jamal Barrow, says his visit was also a fact-finding trip following recent violence which has seen looting of foreign-owned shops and the death of a Somali shopkeeper.

    Barrow states that the two countries - Somalia and South Africa - have found a common understanding, common action and common sentiments on how they can avert xenophobic incidents in the future.

    To read the article titled, “Somali envoy in SA to discuss xenophobia,” click here.

  • Protect and Celebrate Contributions Made by Refugees

    The Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CoRMSA) observes World Refugee Day 2013 by calling for more recognition of the positive contributions refugees make in their host countries. The world observes World Refugee Day on 20 June every year. 2013 is no different. Hundreds of events have been organised to commemorate this day. The sad reality is that people continue to be displaced on a daily basis as we continue to witness human suffering because of conflicts in the Middle East, Africa and various parts of the world.
    In South Africa, we have recently seen the displacement of refugees and other non-nationals due to violence and looting of their shops over the past few weeks including on the eve of this World Refugee Day.
    On this World Refugee Day, CoRMSA calls for increased recognition of the positive contributions that refugees make in South Africa. In recognising and visibly promoting these contributions beyond this day, we will be able to enlighten the general public on benefits that refugees offer the country while dispelling the many negative myths and stereotypes attributed to this group.
    This day is recognised in the same month as we remember the sacrifices made by South African youth in 1976 in struggling against oppression. It is thus befitting that we also celebrate the achievements made by refugee youth who despite being uprooted and sometimes going through traumatic experiences, are able to rise beyond these circumstances and make positive contributions towards their country of refuge.
    Recent events that resulted in the looting and displacement of foreign-owned shops poses a critical question for South Africa as a country in relation not only to the respect for the rule of law but also related to lawlessness on the part of those holding demonstrations and the country’s ability to manage this. In this regard, we therefore call for increased protection for all in South African communities and in particular vulnerable groups including those refugees engaged in small business trading in various parts of the country. By promoting safety and security for all, we are ensuring proper integration of all groups within our society.
    - Sicel’mpilo Shange-Buthane is executive director at the Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa. Alfani Yoyo is advocacy officer in the same organisation. 
  • South Africa 'Desensitised' to Xenophobia

    The Centre for Human Rights (CHR) says that South Africans are becoming desensitised to crime and xenophobic attacks.

    In a press statement, CHR points out that, "We fear that xenophobic attacks are becoming regular phenomena, and the South African population is becoming increasingly desensitised."

    The organisation further argues that while the law prohibits heinous deeds such as sexual and violent crimes, the South African population has grown apathetic to these issues with little hope of them being addressed.

    To read the article titled, “SA 'desensitised' to xenophobia,” click here.

    The Citizen
  • Diepsloot Attacks Not Xenophobia, Say Residents

    Both local and international residents of Diepsloot have denied claims that xenophobia is behind the recent violence in the township.

    Zimbabwean national and long-term resident of Diepsloot, Agnes Tshavengwa, argues that, "This isn't xenophobia, people are just jealous of the businesses making money and want to steal. They don't hate foreigners, they are just criminals."

    Her comments follows an incident in which approximately 80 small-scale shops and informal retailers were looted following the killing of two Zimbabweans, allegedly at the hands of a Somali shop owner.

    To read the article titled, “Diepsloot residents: This is not xenophobia,” click here.

    Mail & Guardian
  • Spazas Looted in Xenophobic Attacks

    Residents of Diepsloot, north of Johannesburg, say the killing of two Zimbabwean nationals and widespread looting of shops that are owned by foreign nationals are the result of frustrations over joblessness and poverty.

    Police say the suspect shot the two after they tried to rob him, adding that residents then tried to destroy the shop.

    Meanwhile, Gauteng police say many foreigners who had their shops looted in Orange Farm last week have not returned to their businesses. Their shops were looted following residents’ complaints that some foreign-owned shops sold food that is not fit for human consumption.

    To read the article titled, “Poverty blamed for xenophobic attacks in Diepsloot,” click here.

    SABC News
  • CoRMSA Comments on Recent Xenophobic Attacks

    The Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CoRMSA) says some of the six reported incidents this year were examples of a new type of xenophobic attack.

    CoRMSA spokesperson, Gwada Majange, points out that these attacks originated from protests about service delivery or unemployment.

    "You've seen informal traders protest [against the] municipality, but in the end they directed their anger toward the spaza shop owners," explains Majange.

    To read the article titled, “Xenophobic attacks continue,” click here.

    The Citizen
  • Shop Owners Evicted in Xenophobic Attacks

    The South African Red Cross Society (SARCS) says that over 500 foreign nationals have been displaced in xenophobic attacks in Botshabelo in the Free State.

    In a press statement, the organisation states that, “It all started when unregistered street vendors were removed in Botshabelo town at a place called Fairways on 3 July [2012].”

    The SARCS, which is currently supporting 584 displaced foreigners at the community hall, providing food, blankets and other aid, is pleading with the public, businesses and corporates to assist with clothes, school uniforms, toiletries and food to help the victims.

    To read the article titled, “Foreigners evicted from F State shops,” click here.

    The Citizen
  • ANC Criticised Over Spaza Shop Proposal

    The African National Congress’ (ANC) proposal to curtail township spaza shops owned by foreign nationals has come under fire from People Against Suffering, Oppression and Poverty (PASSOP).

    PASSOP coordinator, Braam Hanekom, slammed the move as misguided and a mistake.

    Hanekom warns that, “We don’t know the number of foreign entrepreneurs in townships, but can safely assume that the rights of the number of people who pay cheaper for a loaf of bread far outweigh the interest of local shop owners.” He was responding to comment by ANC provincial secretary, Songezo Mjongile, that an explosion of foreign-owned shops had out-muscled local owners.

    To read the article titled, “ANC spaza shop proposal condemned,” click here.

    The Citizen
  • Stop Xenophobia and Celebrate Africa Unity

    Foreign nationals continue to be under threat in South Africa four years after wide spread xenophobic attacks.

    The month of May is considered Africa month. This is the month that on 25 May 1963; the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) was formed. The formation of the OAU represented the solidarity and unity of African nations and people which aimed to coordinate and intensify cooperation among African states, with the goal of achieving a better life for all the people of Africa.

    Over the years, the continent has seen its fair share of wars, famine, natural disasters, but also celebrated its victories as many countries gradually gained independence from colonialism, the abolishing of apartheid was a victory not only for South Africa (SA), but for all the African countries and the international community who had shielded those who went into exile and supported mass movements against apartheid. The dawn of democracy in 1994, was a culmination of years of struggle for freedom and a great celebration for many who had been fighting for equal rights for all. It facilitated a constitutional democracy where everyone’s rights are respected under the law and should also be respected in practice.

    However, the constitutional right to dignity and to life of non-nationals have been consistently violated both during apartheid and within the democratic dispensation. The most visible disregard for the lives of non-nationals is consistently witnessed with their continued attacks in the country. While xenophobic attacks had been carried out in various parts of SA unaddressed for many years, despite civil society calls for action, the most disturbing and brutal attacks were witnessed exactly four years ago, it was quite ironic that the month that has been marked as a month to celebrate Africa and African-ness was marred by such attacks. 

    8 May marked the fourth anniversary of the xenophobic attacks which left scores of foreigners and South Africans dead and thousands displaced. Violence against migrants continues unabated. Non-nationals across SA are still calling for justice and humane treatment after the 2008 xenophobic attacks. Some of the people who have come to SA for an array of reasons continue to face injustices. These range from violent attacks, being denied access to services and the continued stereotypes attributed to foreign nationals. Recent reports note that non-nationals are regularly attacked in various provinces with a number of deaths reported on a monthly basis. Foreign nationals who own and/or run spaza shops around the country are experiencing intense pressures as they deal with harassment and the destruction of their businesses. Migrants are also confronting ongoing discrimination and violence when seeking and doing work.

    Indeed, since the attacks, government has yet to establish a coordinated plan to deal with xenophobia and social cohesion. Instead various government departments and municipalities have their own plans which do not seem to address the continuing xenophobia that non-nationals face. Without a clear plan of action; government, at all levels, runs the risk of perpetuating the conditions of deprivation and isolation that foment attacks against people perceived as foreigners.  This non-coordinated intervention strategy also risk burning communities out as various stakeholders target the same communities to implement intervention strategies.

    A key issue that remains unaddressed since the eruption of violence is the lack of accountability for those who were the perpetrators. Many communities continue to wait for the convictions of those responsible for the xenophobic acts. Lack of a timely judicial process for perpetrators, diminishes the rights and protections of all people living in SA, foreigner or citizen. We need justice in order for real peace and stability to be maintained. Lack of proper systems to ensure accountability was evident in the recent case of attacks on foreigners in Limpopo, which resulted in the arrest of over one hundred suspects, many who were later released.

    This year’s commemoration offers an opportunity for the South African government to finally follow through on the commitments made at the World Conference Against Racism held in 2001 in Durban and the Durban Review conference in 2010. SA signed and ratified the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in 1994 and 1998 respectively, but government has yet to finalise a National Action Plan to address racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance 10 years after the Durban conference. A National Action Plan could be a platform for government to address the growing xenophobia that is infecting the country and has the potential to serve as a model for all nations who are high receivers of migrants.

    Government would do well in honouring the lives of those who died in the xenophobic attacks by introducing and passing robust hate crime legislation. SA at present has no legislation covering crimes that are motivated by prejudice or that specifically target people on the basis of factors such as race, nationality, ethnicity, sexual orientation or religion. Injustice toward migrants threatens all of our freedoms.

    The commemoration also presents a crucial chance for the government to act decisively to make migrant and refugee rights - human rights. As the focus of this year’s Africa month centres on the diaspora and the contribution they can make to the sustainable development of the continent, it is important that governments, states and all people promote an environment which will build confidence and promotes opportunities for investment whilst upholding the rights and freedoms for all. It is also an opportunity particularly for SA to effectively use and benefit from the skills that many migrants and refugees who are in SA possess and in so doing, ensure development not only of the country but the region and continent. This will also mean that we are contributing towards to realisation of economic development for the continent, thereby promoting the African Union’s vision of ‘an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa’

    - Sicel’mpilo Shange-Buthane is executive director at Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CoRMSA). For more about the Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa, refer to
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