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Monitoring and investigating xenophobic tensions and incidents in Gauteng, Mpumalanga, North West, Free State and in the Eastern Cape as an operational partner of the UNHCR, Militia / DMPSP has predicted and taken note of the recent heightened xenophobic tensions in the country.

A low Intensity Conflict (LIC) is gaining momentum towards foreign owned businesses, especially those owned by Somalian, Ethiopian and Pakistani/Bangladeshi traders.

In Gauteng an organization which sprung out of the tensions experienced last year in Freedom Park, calling itself the Greater Gauteng Business Forum (GGBF) has been established and is bringing together various local business forums together under one umbrella to oust foreign traders from townships.

This and other local business forums have been mobilizing and taking action against foreign shop keepers, forcibly closing, intimidating and even going as far as executing violent actions towards foreign traders.

However the main thrust of this LIC has been the constant criminal activities which is being executed towards foreign traders. Approximately 90% of all business robberies and crimes on businesses in townships is being carried out against foreign owned shops. Police response to such crime has been limited.

However police has taken action on several occasions against members of GGBF both in Soweto and on the East Rand, where arrests for intimidation were made, but these cases were withdrawn by the DPP.

General Government response has been moderate, and although they have taken note of the problem, their response has been to set up forums for discussion which are expected to have limited effect.

The indications have been however, that whilst the bureaucratic wheels are turning, the problem continues to fester and the xenophobic mobilization gains momentum.

In various incidents around the country foreign owned shops have been attacked, looted and even burnt to the ground. In places such as Port Elizabeth Somalian traders are being killed on a weekly basis, and recently attacks on foreigners other than traders have begun to rise as experienced in Diepsloot – Gauteng and in Limpopo recently.

With service delivery and other civil unrest taking place daily, especially in Gauteng, it is expected that attacks on foreigners will also be executed during such protests as has been the case in the past.

The issue of xenophobia in South Africa cannot be ignored. Although many of the local business forums have expressed that their issue is not xenophobic, it is nothing more than “grand standing”. The attitudes that we have experienced are purely xenophobic.

The trading issue being brought up by business forums as specifically relating to foreigners is creating a perception of xenophobia which is being taken advantage by criminal elements, and which makes refugees / foreigners easy targets for criminal elements.

The fact is however, that most communities which have been affected are not xenophobic and the situation / conflict between traders has been taken advantage of by criminal and other petty political elements.

In some communities including in Port Elizabeth and in Ramaphosa communities have stood up against local shop owners attacks on foreigners.

The situation is a developmental issue. Government needs to take serious heed before the situation explodes to something akin of the 2008 xenophobic attacks.

The situation in Ficksburg and Clocolan has become extremely tense, especially for the people of foreign origin and foreign traders in the area.

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The DMPSP / MILITIA Research and Emergency Support Team (REST) deployed to the area shortly after the first protests on the 23rd March 2011 to investigate and mediate the issue surrounding the attacks on foreign owned shops.

More than 12 shops belonging to foreign nationals had been looted or burnt in Ficksburg and 17  shops in Clocolan.  75 Ethiopian traders in both Ficksburg and Clocolan were left displaced.

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Our investigations found that the issues were mainly related to service delivery and the candidates list for the up-coming elections. However we also found that tensions between local shop owners, Bangladeshi / Pakistani Shop owners and the Ethiopian shop owners led to the looting of the mainly Ethiopian owned shops under the guise of the Service Delivery Protests.

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We also found extremely disturbing that school children, some as young as 14 years of age, were mainly being used by organizers to conduct the protests and looting rampages.

2011 Project Focus

We have highlighted 5 priority CIVIC SUPPORT PROJECTS FOCUS Areas, which we intent to concentrate on this year.

a.      MONITORING : We intend to increase our monitoring activities around issues which lead to displacement. Specifically those of informal settlements which are prone to Flooding, Fires and xenophobic violence / political Instability.

In 2010 we saw an increase in Xenophobic Attitudes and incidents of violence which safrica1has primarily been focused on Foreign Traders. 

We will also be monitoring politically related violence in South Africa as we head up towards the Local Govt Elections this year.

As the deadline for registration of Zimbabweans expired on the 31 Dec 2010, we intent to increase our monitoring with regards to Repatriation Activities being undertaken by the South African Govt. Specifically we will monitor the activities around arrests by the Police and Home Affairs, as well as keeping a close eye on the activities taking place at the Lindela Detention and Repatriation Centre.

We will also be expanding our monitoring and assessment activities to Cape Town this Year.

b.     INTERVENTIONS : In 2010 DMPSP started conductingRE-IMG_2322 conflict resolution interventions in areas that had been affected by Xenophobic Violence. We intend to increase such interventions this year in order to prevent any displacement through violence. 

We will be conducting awareness campaigns and workshops in communities in order to assist in bringing about community cohesion and tolerance.

c.     SHELTER KITS : Our experience with issues of displacement, as well as having noted that there is a lack of availability of shelters to accommodate people that have been displaced,  has necessitated that we acquire and have on standby SHELTER KIT’s to deploy at any time to places where shelter is immediately required for displaced people.

In 2010 alone we experienced about half a dozen major incidents of displacement in Gauteng Province alone, tentsproper emergency shelters where hardly available and hundreds of people were left homeless and without any shelter for days before any assistance could reach them.

We would like to have Emergency Shelter Kits that we can deploy at a moment’s notice to immediately provide vulnerable people with shelter and assistance.

d.     YOUTH EXCHANGE : This year we wish to send at least 30 YOUTH from areas that have been identified as XenophobicDSCF1080 Hot Spots in South Africa, to visit neighbouring countries on a ten day tour. This aims to educated the   YOUTH and provide deeper understanding of the conditions and circumstances that lead to migration. We hope that sending youth from such areas will assist in decreasing the xenophobic attitudes and tendencies in the area.

e.     SCHOOL FOR DISPLACED CHILDREN : We have decided to adopt the school at Trinity Church in Yoeville as a project this year.

The small school being run out of borrowed premises at the Trinity Church in Yeoville has approximately 130 children, from toddlers to 17 year old’s, which are displaced and orphaned children of refugees and migrants. trinity school

The school has been run so far with volunteer teachers and no desks or chairs for the kids. Our partners the MILITIA TRUST (www.militia.org.za) donated about 150 school text books in 2010 but a lot more assistance is needed for this school.

We sincerely wish you a productive and joyful year in 2011. Happy New Year.

BOANET SMS PORTAL ACTIVE

DMPSP has launched the BOANET Campaign. BOA ME NA, ME MMOA WO (“Help me and let me help you”) The BOANET .Forum is about Cooperation and Interdependence

clip_image002 The campaign aims to create a network amongst individuals from migrant and marginalized communities, civil society and faith based organizations that will provide a monitoring and support network.

Such a network will not only provide critical information (especially that related to possible violence) that allow for preventative measures to be implemented, but will also serve as a platform for information of relevance to dealing with displacement and relief to be easily disseminated.

The network is aimed at mobilizing individuals, communities and civil society organizations in providing emergency temporary relief to victims. This emergency relief allows a period of reprieve for effective support to be coordinated by relief agencies.

The BOANET campaign is focused on ensuring that the following emergency support or relief can be mobilized :

clip_image004> Blankets and Clothing

> Non perishable Food stuffs and Food Parcels.

> Provision of Meals.

> Provision of Emergency Shelter.

> Development of Home Sheltering Network.

> Counselling.

Organizations who can contribute should register by providing basic details of the organization and its capabilities via email to info@dmpsp.org.

The BOANET sms Portal is also now active. Individuals can register by sending an sms with the word “help” followed by the area they are in and the type of assistance they can provide. e.g. : “help Sandton Blankets” to 38083

The system has also been set up to create an information dissemination system for foreign migrants around issues of xenophobia etc. Foreign nationals can register on the system to receive info updates of relevance to them by sending an sms with the word “help” followed by country of origin and language of preference. e.g. : “help Congo French”..

Pretoria – Foreign nationals living in South Africa will find the process of obtaining a study, work or business permit much easier in the coming months.

The Department of Home Affairs has announced it has centralised the issuing of permits, which will help to ease the backlog of 13 000 applications. Permits will now be issued from its headquarters in Pretoria.

In the past, permits were applied for at the department’s regional offices across the country. These applications were then sent to the headquarters for adjudication and ratification, resulting in a huge backlog in the issuing process.

The backlogs had a negative impact on the operation of businesses that wanted to bring to South Africa skilled workers from abroad and created hardships for those who apply annually for their work permits to be re-issued.

As a result, the country was losing out on critical skills that had the potential to contribute to the growth of the economy.

The situation was no better for foreign students who, because of the delays in receiving their study permits, lost their spots at academic institutions, Apleni said.

“This is totally unacceptable and has become unbearable for business, students and foreign workers and requires urgent action to facilitate movement for such persons into our country to contribute meaningfully to the development of our country,” Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma said.

The minister also wants the permits to be valid for three to five years, doing away with the need for annual applications for permits to be re-issued.

To achieve this, the department was looking into introducing changes to the current standard operating procedures.

He stressed that these measures, with regards to the permits, did not apply to Zimbabwean nationals, who were required to regularise their stay in South Africa following a Cabinet decision.

So far, the department had received 73 407 applications from Zimbabweans wanting to regularise their stay in the country.

Apleni said 20 966 of these applications had been approved, 5 486 rejected, with the rest awaiting adjudication.

The deadline to document all illegal Zimbabweans by 31 December 2010 had not changed, he added. - BuaNews

Currently the South African Govt at national level has initiated the program of documenting Zimbabweans and have a deadline for the 31 Dec 2010.

The Govt safrica14has refused to budge on the deadline date and they have a very good reason for it.   Although the drive has been geared towards legalizing the status of many Zimbabweans according to the correct legal framework.. this exercise is in essence a white-wash operation to convince the public that some effort has been made towards documenting the approximately 3 million Zimbabweans in South Africa prior to a massive repatriation campaign.

National govt has seen that service delivery issues are on the cards as we gear towards local govt elections next year, and these are bound to be utilized by local leaders to promote xenophobic sentiments in our populations, and might well lead to xenophobic violence.

The national govt has realized that the only short term manner in addressing the migration issue, and with it the xenophobic issues in the country, is to embark on a massive repatriation campaign.  Evidence of this has already shown the light in the last week with massive police and home affairs operations in the central Johannesburg business district, an area mostly populated by foreign nationals from Zimbabwe, Congo, Nigeria and Mozambique.bheki cele3

The national police commissioner General Bheki Cele has announced that “Operation Duty Calls” is a crime prevention operation targeted at criminal activities prior to the Christmas festive season.

However, the majority of residents in the areas targeted to date by Operation Duty Calls have been mainly areas where foreign nationals are resident.  The very fact that the police has been accompanied by a large Home Affairs contingent, is indicative of the nature of the operation to target foreign nationals.

National Govt has been highly diplomatic in this issue, and has avoided coming out and announcing that a massive repatriation campaign has begun in earnest.  The fact remains that Home Affairs will only be able to process about 50 – 60 000 applications for documentation from Zimbabwean nationals by the 31 December 2010.  The rest of the 3 million Zimbabweans and other foreign nationals are due to face repatriation over the next 6 months.

hhgf It is logical that govt has to act in a drastic manner prior to local govt elections next year (which are expected between April and June).  There are huge tensions within the ruling party itself, never mind that between the ruling party and its alliance partners.

Many leaders in high positions in the ruling party and at senior govt positions harbour xenophobic sentiments and these sentiments are clearly illustrated at local govt level where councilors and other local leaders have utilized xenophobic sentiments as mobilization issues.  A power struggle is on the cards for next year’s local govt elections and the National Govt is quite correct in taking such drastic measures to prevent the xenophobia card from being used as a rallying point by local leaders.

General Bekhi Cele has correctly stated that “Operation Duty Calls” is geared towards the festive season.  However he has failed to mention that this operation is just the “starter’ and precursor to the “main course” which is bound to start in earnest in 2011.

safrica11 “Operation Duty Calls” is a early warning system for foreign nationals indicating that the South African Govt would like you to return to your home country over this festive season.  Once the registration process ends on the 31 Dec 2010, the new year will usher in a whole new phase of arrest and repatriation for all foreign nationals in South Africa.

The evidence trail has been clear in the re-deployment of the South African National Defence Force to the borders.  This preparation is not only to ensure and strengthen regular security at our borders, especially with Zimbabwe and Mozambique. safrica1 But is an advance deployment in preparation for massive illegal entry by immigrants after the repatriation campaign begins.

One has to ask if this is the right move by govt.  Although several negative aspects are on the cards for migrants in South Africa, one also has to consider the realities of life in South Africa.  To fight xenophobic attitudes and sentiments prevalent amongst the South African population will be an extremely long process which will include having to address the issue of poverty and service delivery.

However the fact remains, that xenophobic attacks is South Africa are bound to happen and if something drastic is not done then massive attacks as seen in 2008 are going to happen.   This is a point that is reiterated by many Civil Society Organizations and is a fact that is well known to the South African Govt.  Their responsive actions (although not vocal) are a clear indicator that they are aware of the dangers of xenophobic attacks and have decided to take appropriate action.

Many will argue that foreign nationals in South Africa RE-DSCF1111 have a valid reasons for having migrated from their home countries, and that may be so.  However DMPSP is deeply involved in monitoring the xenophobic attitudes and sentiments on the ground in townships around Gauteng, Mpumalanga, North West and Free State.  The dangers of a full scale xenophobic attack are very real and very near.

Although we have to commend the swift action by police after the SWC at Kaya Sands when xenophobic attacks began, and we hope that such swift action will be the norm by the police should such attacks occur again, we have to be realistic in understanding the short-falls/limitations of the South African Police Force and National Defence Force should other large scale, or even larger scale attacks than 2008 occur.

It is certain that the national govt has realized that the 2008 attacks not only gave an indication as to how fast such incidents can occur and spread, but also the limitation of the security forces in being able to deal with large scale civil unrest.

The Security Forces in South Africa have had good experience since jhgfjhf 2008 as to the nature of civil unrest, and their ability to effectively deal with it.   One has only to revise the nature of service delivery protests taking place around the country since 2008 to understand that such protests have by and large been extremely violent.  Many such protests have directly attacked police officers and police vehicles with no fear or respect for the enforcers of the law.

Current Police and Defence Force strengths, morale and discipline will not be able to effectively control massive civil disruption in the country should it occur.  The situation will be accentuated by xenophobic sentiments and attitudes prevalent amongst security force personnel.  Many incidents of xenophobic attitudes and occurrences are reportedly are being perpetrated by Police force and home affairs personnel.

The Kaya Sands incident was easy enough for police to handle as it was isolated and a selected force could be deployed. safrica7 However, should mass xenophobic civil unrest occur, it is doubtful whether the police and even the deployment of the  Defence Force would have any major impact on controlling such violence.  This was clearly evident during the 2008 xenophobic attacks when the Police and Defence Force deployments did little to curb the violence.

We have to criticise National Govt for its lack of communication around the issue of possible xenophobic attacks.  However the need to address the issues leading to xenophobic sentiments, attitudes and possible civic unrest against foreigners is extremely great, and the measures and methods might also have to be extreme.

The reality is that the open door policy of South Africa over the last 10-15 years, including extremely porous borders has led to huge migration of foreign nationals into South Africa, most illegally.  This has led to a huge imbalance in what would normally take place were proper measures being exrcised to control the flow of migration into South Africa.

The attitude of South Africans that foreigners are taking their homes, jobs and resources, whether real of perceived, have a huge impact on the levels of xenophobic sentiments which will lead to violent actions and unrest.

This reality can only be addressed in the short-term by implementing the regulations and legal frameworks which guide the handling of migration, both legal and illegal.

There is no doubt that this planned massive repatriation campaign will possibly ignite some negative sentiments and incidents amongst foreign nationals, and might even lead to an increase in activities by criminal elements towards foreign nationals.efu

However, the campaign will go a long way towards reducing the levels of xenophobic sentiments in the average South African if govt is seen to be doing something about the levels of foreigners in the country.

Given the political climate at present, such a repatriation campaign will also reduce the chances of local political leaders being able to mobilize communities towards xenophobic violence if government is already seen to be busy doing something significant about it.

Although civil society has to closely monitor such operations and campaigns for civil rights abuses, it is our opinion that as much support as possible should be given towards assisting foreign nationals to return to their home country, as well as to the South African Govt in correctly managing and implementing the measures necessary for repatriation.

The fear of strangers or foreign people is often known officially as Xenophobia. It can not only be a fear of people they have not met, but of foreigners to their country and people with different beliefs. Xeno means stranger and phobia means to have a fear.

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The fear of foreigners and people different to ones self can be regarding anybody from a different culture to your own, people with different personalities, higher levels of confidence or just somebody who believes in different things to yourself. People speaking in a foreign language can also cause alarm for those suffering with this phobia or fear and will always give a cause for alarm.

Xenophobia is something not decided on, but more like a natural instinct to the person holding the fear. Suffering feeling these emotions strongly feel genuinely that people different to themselves in any shape or form could be something to be wary of, so they usually either confront or back well away from the potential danger.

There are many Xenophobics who suffer in such an extreme way that it causes them to become nasty and violent towards others. They can lash out and say rude and racist remarks. The majority of sufferers, however will stay calm and deal with it away from others in a safe place.

Throughout history and even today, tribes across the world follow some kind of Xenophobia and will fight any tribes different to themselves. This just shows how many different levels it comes it and how widespread it can be. Hitler was the most extreme active Xenophobic in his day and due to his extreme feelings, had millions of Jews gassed and killed. This was all because they were different to him so he had his soldiers do the dirty deed of destroying those that he took a strong dislike to.

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