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.Source:The Citizen
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 .”
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.Source:The Citizen
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.Source:The Citizen
- 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 www.cormsa.org.za.
The Gauteng Department of Human Settlements says the RDP houses in the Alexandra Township, north of Johannesburg, have been allocated to ‘bona fide’ South Africans.
In his reaction to accusations by residents of that township that foreigners are being allocated houses ahead of locals, the department spokesperson, Motsamai Motlhaolwa, points out that, “We understand the frustration of the waiting people but it does not justify using threats and inciting xenophobia.”
Motlhaolwa states that the MEC has invited people to bring evidence forward that proves people living in the houses are foreigners, as a result no one has ever come forward.
To read the article titled, “Alex houses went to legitimate citizens – Department,” click here.Source:Sowetan
- In a week that saw two Somali traders shot dead in Cape Town and two more in Port Elizabeth, the South African government's handling of xenophobia received the lowest possible rating in a report by the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) Monitoring Project.
Three years after widespread violence against foreigners broke out across the country, evaluators from the Monitoring Project noted that the government had failed to prioritise the issue, and that "there is even an element of denialism on the part of some officials."
Tara Polzer Ngwato, of the African Centre for Migration and Society (ACMS) at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, agreed with the assessment. “Government responses have been fragmented, poorly-resourced and with limited political commitment," despite a significant rise in attacks on foreign-owned shops in several provinces since the beginning of 2011.
The African Union introduced the APRM in 2003 as an instrument for improving governance and accountability. After agreeing to participate, countries identify their weaknesses and develop a National Programme of Action (NPoA) to address them.
The Monitoring Project, made up of civil society researchers and activists from the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA), the Africa Governance Monitoring and Advocacy Project (AfriMAP), and the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS), evaluated the government's track record on implementing its NPoA, and graded its progress on critical government issues.
Green is the highest rating, orange indicates some progress, and red little or no progress. Xenophobia was among seven areas given a red rating with others including corruption, poverty and unemployment. Successful management of elections got the only green rating.
Government initiatives fall short
South Africa's NPoA did not mention xenophobia, but a section in an official review of APRM implementation released in January 2011 covered government actions to address the issue, including setting up a unit to counter xenophobia and a communications programme to promote greater harmony between citizens and foreign nationals.
However, the Monitoring Project report described the section as "poorly written with inadvertent repetition and... clearly assembled in a hurry".
Several of the initiatives it listed have not been sustained or rolled out nationally; one, the Counter-Xenophobia Unit in the Department of Home Affairs, got off to "a bright start" according to the report, but "appears to have lost momentum".
Sicel'mpilo Shange-Buthane, director of the Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CoRMSA), told IRIN that after doing some initial awareness-raising, the group had been renamed the Integration and Repatriation Unit, but under new leadership in the Home Affairs Department it had been reluctant to implement xenophobia-related programmes.
Polzer Ngwato commented that the Unit was severely understaffed, and the new name had narrowed its mandate to dealing only with refugees and asylum seekers.
An Inter-Ministerial Committee on Xenophobia, set up after the 2008 attacks, is no longer active and the drafting of a National Action Plan to address xenophobia started in 2009 has still not been finalised. "Various departments are involved in social cohesion campaigns but there's no coordination in terms of what they're doing," said Shange-Buthane.
Political leaders implicated
There is no centralised system for monitoring and recording xenophobic violence, but in the first quarter of 2011 the Human Sciences Research Council tracked 20 deaths, 40 injuries, 200 foreign-owned shops looted and thousands displaced. One recent incident – the beating and stoning to death of a Zimbabwean national in an informal settlement outside Polokwane in Limpopo Province - was followed by the arrest of a local ward councillor affiliated with the African National Congress party for allegedly inciting the attack.
Local government officials have been implicated in several similar attacks in the last two years. Research by ACMS has identified competition for political and economic power in local communities as a key trigger of violence against foreigners.
"There are... many political leaders, along with much of the general population, who perceive foreigners to be a direct threat to citizen economic empowerment and service access, even though there is no evidence that this is in fact the case," said Polzer Ngwato, noting recent comments by Maggie Maunye, who chairs the parliamentary oversight committee of the Department of Home Affairs.
The Star newspaper, reported that during a briefing Maunye asked Home Affairs officials how much longer South Africa was going to allow foreigners to enter the country. "Is it not going to affect our resources, the economy of the country?" she was reported as saying.
"Here we have people who are living in poverty daily, people who are unemployed. We've never enjoyed our freedom as South Africans - we got it in 1994, and we had floods of refugees or undocumented people in the country."
Tina Ghelli, spokesperson for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in South Africa, said a Protection Working Group, set up by civil society groups and UNHCR to provide an early warning system for potential xenophobic violence, worked closely with the South African Police Service's Visible Policing Unit and had experienced some success in preventing attacks.
"They have been more responsive than in the past, but it hasn't trickled down to the local police everywhere," she told IRIN. "One of the big issues is… impunity - people think if they do something to a foreigner there are no repercussions."
In a list of recommendations to the now inactive Inter-Ministerial Committee in June 2010, CoRMSA urged better access to justice for victims of xenophobic violence. "Perpetrators are often not held accountable, which results in a perception of impunity for crimes against foreign nationals."
The APRM Monitoring Project report concludes that failing to address xenophobia in South Africa's NPoA "indicates the ambivalence of government in recognizing and dealing with the issue as a priority, and in a systematic way. The disastrous consequences of May 2008 and subsequent outbreaks of violence are further testimony of this."
- This article first was published on the IRIN News website. IRIN is a humanitarian news and analysis service covering the parts of the world often under-reported, misunderstood or ignored.
- As we celebrate Africa Day on 25 May, among the multicultural events and inter-African festivities, it's a good time to also remember that we should to take our pan-African sentiments to heart all year round. There have once again been reports of increasing tensions directed at South Africa's large migrant communities. It was three years ago that xenophobic attacks shook South Africa - this time we need to catch the problem before it gets worse.
Africa Day offers an opportunity for all of us to celebrate the heritage and ubuntu of the African continent; it's a time to commemorate as one people regardless of where we come from. One problem is that while topics like xenophobia and migrants' issues attract media attention when there is a problem, the everyday lives and stories of communities are rarely heard.
In the spirit of Africa Day, Community Media for Development (CMFD) Productions and Fahamu Networks are launching Breaking Borders, a series of radio documentaries documenting the personal stories of migrants from different parts of Africa.
In one piece, Jenny Ndamwemezi* discusses how, in 1994, she fled Burundi with her younger sister after her parents were killed in the civil war. Arriving in South Africa they had nowhere to go so the young girls lived on the streets until a family friend found them and took them in.
Two years later, age 14, she was brutally gang-raped while walking home from school. Like many migrants who suffer sexual abuse, Ndamwemezi did not report the incident to police, or go to a hospital. She still struggles to cope with the psychological effects of the rape. "Sometimes I used to blame myself, even now, I do blame myself sometimes," she says, "but when I sit, I say no it was not my fault. It was nobody's fault."
According to Mercy Machisa, Gender-Based Violence Programme Manager at Gender Links, this is common. "Migrant women, especially if they are refugees and don't have the proper documentation, are afraid to approach the police or any service providers that deal with survivors," she said. "They fear they will be identified as illegal and face the risk of being deported or stigmatised."
The wave of xenophobic violence that hit South Africa in May 2008 left 63 dead and many others homeless, hospitalised or robbed of their belongings.
Tendekai Mujuru*, a Zimbabwean musician, lost his musical instruments during the attacks, including a treasured mbira. "We had to run away leaving our instruments in the house," he remembers, "they took our mbiras, sound systems, and the drums we had."
Internal South African migrants also face challenges. Ana Ndlomo* moved from Mpumalanga to Johannesburg after she was divorced from her husband of 20 years. She arrived in Johannesburg with nowhere to stay and later learned she was living with HIV.
Ndlomo is now settled and works to help migrant sex workers with some of the same challenges. Sex workers have a hard time accessing health, police and training services. They may not speak the local language, or know where to find clinics or police stations. They are also afraid to approach these officials, especially if they don't have proper documentation.
Ndlomo is like many migrants who, despite personal hardships, are contributing positively to their new communities. Ndamwemezi is another example. She now volunteers to help other migrant and refugee women adjust to life in South Africa. Mujuru still plays music, but he also plants trees in his community as a way of nurturing people through nurturing the earth.
Keeping these positive and extraordinary stories of migration alive throughout the year will contribute to an ongoing understanding of the rich diversity of our African identities. We also must remember that in the end we are all Africans, no matter where we come from.
*Real names have not been used.
- Cindy Dzanya works for Community Media for Development Productions. This article is part of the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service, bringing you fresh views on everyday news.
- The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says that socio-economic problems are the major cause of xenophobia in South Africa.
UNHCR deputy regional representative, Sergio Calle Norena, points out that no society is xenophobic by nature, adding that the 2008 xenophobic attacks that left 62 people dead were caused by lack of development.
Norena, who argues that it was not impossible to address such attacks, is of the view that South Africans need to have better access to employment. He also calls on employers should stop paying foreigners less than locals.
To read the article titled, “UN: No society xenophobic by nature,” click here.
- Following the incredible feeling of African unity experienced during the World Cup, most of us were alarmed by rumours of the targeting of migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers in some pockets of our communities post the final. It stood in stark contrast to the Pan-African spirit we demonstrated when we collectively switched our loyalty to Ghana after Bafana-Bafana was eliminated from the tournament.
We had been warned of a further outbreak of xenophobic violence in the months leading up to the greatest show on earth. Threats and gossip had spread through various townships and informal settlements, warning that once the final whistle blew and the world looked away, our vuvuzelas and banners would be replaced with torches and pangas to chase our African brothers and sisters back home.
These rumours were confirmed all too true last week as foreign-owned shops were looted and burned in the Western Cape and several foreigners were attacked in the Kya Sands Township in Johannesburg, which is now teeming with police officers trying to quell further violence.
However, the South African Human Rights Commission also last week accused the government of responding too slowly to the real threat of xenophobia. Lawrence Mushwana, the chairperson of the Commission, told Parliamentary reporters that the government had ignored recommendations aimed at ending xenophobic violence. He also maintained that much of the violence is being labelled xenophobic when the true causes are unknown. "Until we know what is causing [this] we will not be able to solve it," he said.
Although we refer to our world as a ‘global village’, it is a world that is sadly lacking in closeness toward our neighbours. Around the country, there are problems stemming from either a lack of respect for, or lack of acceptance of, the inherent dignity and equality of all human beings. Policy makers sometimes refer to the movement of people as the third wave of globalisation, coming after the movement of goods (trade) and the movement of money (finance) that began in the previous century.
But trade and finance follow global norms and are governed by global institutions such as the World Trade Organisation, the Word Bank, and the International Monetary Fund (link to: http://www.imf.org). Yet, there is no parallel group to deal with the migration of people. The most personal and dangerous form of movement is therefore the most unregulated. States make (and often ignore) their own rules, deciding who can come in, how long they can stay, and what rights they can enjoy when here.
These waves are experienced very differently by communities. While the movement of goods and finance and the effect on their quality of life is largely invisible to ordinary people, the movement of people is very clear. This may be the reason why it is these people who are targeted with anger. A shirt made in China can cost a South African worker her job without her knowing it. However, a worker from China might move next door in a township, get a job and send his children to a public school - and draw criticism for using public resources.
At least one other reason that amplifies the impact of modern migration is the expectation that the government will control it. Its failure -- glaring if perhaps inevitable -- weakens the broader faith in its competence. South Africa is no exception as the legislation and policies governing migration are far from adequate and don't provide a functional and fair framework for dealing with foreign nationals. Our policies need to be aligned with international protocols. They should take cognisance of our particular location in Africa, trends towards regional integration and the inevitability of immigration to South Africa.
Indeed, the launch of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) free trade area in 2008 was welcomed as the start of an incremental process towards a monetary union and a more integrated economy. It was regarded as a pointer towards a future for the sub-continent that recognises our inter-dependence as economies and our inter-relationship as people.
While migration has been part of South Africa for a very long time, there are new features that set this era apart and amplify the effects of migration in the context of human rights in our country. One distinguishing feature is the money involved, which not only sustains the families left behind but in a limited sense, props up national economies. Migrants in South Africa send home large sums of money each year and in some of the SADC countries, remittances account for more than a quarter of the gross domestic product.
Another aspect of migration is how it affects the African family. According to the International Migration Organisation report on South Africa, nearly half of the migrants coming to the country are now women, and many have left children behind. Their emergence as breadwinners is altering family dynamics across the developing world. Migration empowers some, but puts others at risk: for example, the illegal trafficking of women for sex is a major concern in the region.
South Africa needs a strong moral leadership to counter fear, rumours and intimidation against foreign nationals. To counter the voices that call today's migration a challenge to the United Nations Declaration, which established the territorial sovereignty of the nation-state. Judging by the length of the fence along our border and the unacceptably high levels of intolerance in our communities on the one hand, and the unity in our country demonstrated during the World Cup on the other, nation-states do not appear to be going away. Their people, increasingly, do.
The ‘Unite as One' campaign which is spearheaded by civil society leaders and aimed at collecting a million signed pledges against xenophobia, intolerance, intimidation and violence could not have come at a more appropriate time. Launched to coincide with Mandela Day, the campaign will run until African Human Rights Day on 17 October. It calls on everyone to intensify their efforts to build a country in which people, in spite of their language or country of origin, respect each other and live together peacefully.
- Nkosikhulule Nyembezi is a policy analyst and the Black Sash Advocacy Programme Manager. This article is part of the GL Opinion and Commentary Service, produced as part of the Red Light 2010 Campaign to say no to human trafficking. Visit www.uniteasone.org.za to learn more about the Unite as One campaign. It is republished here with the permission of Gender Links (www.genderlinks.org.za).
- Press Release
22 July 2010
The Black Sash is deeply disturbed over comments reportedly made by KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Social Development Meshack Radebe that government has been “robbed of millions of rands by foreigners who use fraudulent ID’s to claim social grants.”
According to a report in the Sowetan (Foreigners are ‘looting SA coffers’ – 21 July 2010), the MEC also said that “people from Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho and Swaziland were collecting grants fraudulently every month” and that “his department was concerned that the number of foreigners collecting social grants was increasing.” Radebe apparently made the remarks in an address at Prophet Isaiah Shembe one-stop development centre in Inanda, north of Durban on Monday.
The Black Sash would certainly join the MEC in condemning any fraudulent behavior but surely he didn’t intend to suggest that foreign nationals were solely to blame for the regrettable abuse of our social security system? The Black Sash calls on the MEC to set the record straight immediately if this was not his intention. Two days ago, along with other civil society groups, we launched a national unity campaign aimed at collecting a million signed pledges against xenophobia, intolerance, intimidation and violence. At the launch of our ‘Unite as One’ campaign, we specifically called on leaders in government to carefully consider their statements around foreign nationals to avoid inciting and inflaming post World Cup tensions. We also challenged government and the private sector to speak out more clearly and more loudly against the targeting of foreign nationals, and to promote the message of our campaign which says ‘no’ to racism, ignorance and violence, and ‘yes’ to humanity, peace and unity.
The Black Sash is concerned that foreign nationals have become useful “scapegoats” for competing business and political interests in communities and that this opportunism has not been countered by strong moral leadership. We are also worried that the MEC’s alleged comments give the impression that foreign nationals should not be on the social grant system under any circumstances. This is simply not true as they are entitled under the Social Assistance Act to apply and receive a Disability Grant and a Foster Child Grant - and in some instances, the Care Dependency Grant. Foreign nationals are also able to apply for a Social Relief of Distress Award if they cannot support themselves and their dependents and they need immediate temporary assistance.
Read our flyer on the ‘Rights of Refugees’
Find out more about our ‘Unite as One’ pledge campaign
For interview requests, please contact:
Black Sash Advocacy Programme Manager
Cell: 082 429 4719
Black Sash Advocacy Programme Manager
Cell: 072 174 3507
Black Sash Provincial Director: KwaZulu Natal
Cell: 084 430 6133Date published:22/07/2010Organisation:Black Sash