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Archive for the ‘Xenophobic Incidents and News’ Category

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members of GGBF both in Soweto and on the East Rand, where arrests for intimidation were made, but these cases were withdrawn by the DPP.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.

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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.

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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.

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DMPSP and MILITIA have partnered up with the UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees) and HANSA (Humanitarian Assistance Network of South Africa to provide workshops in communities around Gauteng which are considered “Hot Spots” for xenophobic Violence.

The workshops are a “train the trainer” program and focus on the following topics :

The implication and Costs of Violence,

Conflict Resolution,

CPF – Community Police Forum

Pre Displacement Assessment Methodologies.

Post Displacement Assessment Methodologies.

So far we have conducted two workshops. Orange Farm on the 28 July 2010 and and Khutsong. on the 05 Aug 2010.

These have targeted relevant stakeholders in communities and have been well received, with firm commitments from communities in tackling the issues surrounding Xenophobia and Xenophobic related criminality in communities.

The workshops have the aim of creating forum network of community stakeholders that will take responsibility for activities in their communities :

BOA NET FORUM

Cooperation and Interdependence

BOA ME NA, ME MMOA WO (“Help me and let me help you”)

Objectives :

Boa net Forum forms a network of community based organizations and structures, with its main objectives in striving to :

Eradicate criminality, violence and conflict in communities.

Create community cohesion and interdependence.

Promote tolerance and understanding and cooperation amongst communities.

Create stability and development in communities.

Exchange Ideas, skills and information.

Create a support network amongst communities.

Maintain strong focus on ground level community work.

Promote youth development.

Responsibilities  :

Ensure that community street committees are functional and community awareness and sensitization campaigns are initiated to maintain momentum of community involvement in street committees.

Ensure that monitoring and reporting mechanisms and systems are in place in communities.

Ensure that Identification and Liaison with stakeholders in Community. ie. Local Govt Leaders / Community Organizations / Youth Groups / Faith Based Organizations / Taxi Associations, etc, takes place and maintain momentum of stakeholder involvement in community efforts.

Maintain strong involvement and liaison with SAPF / CPF’s and coordination of Stakeholder involvement in CPF structures and other campaigns.

Maintain community based Disaster Management Preparedness.

Cascade this Train the Trainer program in communities and organizations.

 Development of Community Cohesion Program / Activities as per individually identified initiatives in respective communities.

Maintain constant communication, information sharing, and networking with other Boa Net Communities.

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XENOPHOBIC VIOLENCE – PLAN OF ACTION TEMPLATE

Xenophobic attacks which occurred during May 2008 in South Africa took the whole world by surprise.   Approximately 60 people were killed (20 of which were South Africans) during violence which erupted  throughout townships mostly in Gauteng, KwaZulu Natal, and Western Cape Provinces.

Much has been said about the fact that such xenophobic violence has its origins in Traditional, Tribal and Institutionalized  Segregation that comprises the historical background of South Africa.

However, the current emotional turmoil which is systematically gripping the country has direct links to issues involving Service Delivery and Corruption as a catalyst to Violence , mostly against other Africans of foreign origin.

It is possible to have protracted discussions and analysis done on the causes of xenophobia in South Africa, but these are issues that have already been widely extrapolated, and there are many commendable efforts being carried out by Civil Society Organizations and Government to address the issue in the medium to long-term.

Our focus should now be on the imminent Threat of  Xenophobic Violence and the measures required to Immediately Prevent or Minimize the Incidents of Xenophobic linked Violence.

Although we have had conflicting statements issued by Govt and the ruling party around the current threat of Xenophobic violence  we are well aware that there are various activities taking place within government structures to attend to this issue, ie :

  • On a National level, the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Xenophobia was revived and is currently chaired by Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa.
  • Various Disaster management structures within the government sphere have been activated and have contingency plans formulated or in the process of being formulated.
  • The South African Police Force has been busy since May on establishing a template for contingency plans right down to Station level.
  • Various committees and structures have been formed at Provincial and Local Government Level to create awareness surrounding xenophobia and attempt to establish community Unity and Cohesion.

These efforts can be commended, however it has been clear from our monitoring of attitudes and incidents in communities that Xenophobic attitudes are not only prevalent in communities but have shown a marked increase especially as the end of the world cup draws nearer.

DMPSP  has identified the following crucial actions that need to be taken both by Government and Civil society, especially at community level in identified possible “hot spots” throughout the country.

Monitoring and Reporting

  • Civil Society Organizations must stand together as a unified front and forum in the establishment of a centralized incident monitoring and reporting structure / network which will allow for speedy reporting and immediate investigation.
  • From a government perspective the National Intelligence Agency and Police Crime Intelligence are by default supposed to be on increased alert in monitoring, investigation and executing the course of justice in such matters.

Local Government Structures

  • Community, Faith Based, Political, Labour and all other civil society organizations must involve themselves, Issue directives and place pressure on Local Government leaders / structures to actively participate in addressing the issue of xenophobia in their respective wards.   Leaders must :
  • Create a platform for community involvement in addressing the “Cost of Violence” issue.
  • Immediately embark on campaigns to build confidence, cohesion, tolerance and unity in their respective communities.
  • Become actively involved in addressing the short-falls in serving the needs of their respective communities.
  • Formulate contingency plans and establish links to necessary disaster management structures and organizations.
  • Govt and political leaders must issue directives and provide training seminars to Councillors as a matter of urgency to address these issues.

Community Police Forums (CPF’s)

  • South African Police Force involvement and cooperation with CPF’s must take a priority role in monitoring, creating awareness and disseminating policy and crime combating strategies around the issue of Xenophobic Violence to CPF’s and Communities.
  • The Intelligence gathering and monitoring capability and resource that lies within community police forums must be widely exploited by the SAPF as an early warning system.
  • The involvement of CPF structures in the monitoring and the bringing to justice of instigators and perpetrators of violence is crucial in allowing communities to take responsibility and ownership of the issue xenophobic violence in their respective communities.
  • CPF structures can prepare and establish contingency plans for handling the outbreak of violence and possible disaster management issues that come attached with such outbreaks.

Media

  • Civil Society Organizations, Political Parties, Labour and Government must exploit all avenues of the media on a national and local level in creating awareness in the public surrounding the “Cost of Violence” to communities.
  • Media must be made aware with regards to responsible reporting surrounding the issues of xenophobic violence.

Contingency Plans

  • Areas or “Hot Spots” must be immediately identified which must be targeted for immediate implementation of contingency plans. It must be noted that it is not only areas which were affected by violence in 2008 that should be targeted.  Many such areas interventions have taken place and possibility exists that violence may not occur. Other areas where tensions around service delivery exist must be identified and targeted for intervention. Of articular concern in the Gauteng Province is the Vaal Area where we have noted that there is a marked increase in mobilization towards xenophobic violence. These could have a spill over effect into other areas.
  • Police must increase their intelligence gathering capabilities in identified areas and specific deterrent actions must be taken to prevent outbreak of violence.  Dept of Justice must be included in Police Planning.
  • Police leadership must ensure that members of the force are adequately sensitized around the issue and special emphasis placed on assessing the “Cost of Violence” and the effective application of the “Rule of Law” in such matters.
  • Police Force members have often been accused of being apathetic towards the issue of Xenophobia. Force members have to understand the potential cost to police credibility and their ability to apply the rule of law should such violence be allowed to take place unhindered.
  • Disaster management units at all levels of govt must ensure that adequate Relief management plans are in place and coordination of such efforts must take place through a Joint Operational Plan between Civil Society / Relief Aid Organizations and various spheres of government.

Other

Although all indicators point to the high probability that there will be an outbreak of xenophobic violence it is important to comprehend that there is still space for prevention and all efforts must be applied in ensuring that this may be brought about.

It is important that ongoing and current efforts / campaigns to create community cohesion and educate the public around issues of Xenophobia be intensified.

It is equally important that Government and political parties issue strong statements and provide responsible leadership to the public in this regard.

It is essential that the euphoria that has developed around the Successful Hosting of the Soccer World Cup 2010 be widely exploited.

Campaigns by leadership in all spheres of our communities must be directed towards building the confidence in our Nation that Africans can and will ensure that problems and challenges such as service delivery, crime and even xenophobic violence can be effectively resolved.

It is important that a message of building on Unity and Productivity be sent out to the public, and that such challenges are issues that can be productively worked on to find a common solution.

National Pride has been boosted by the Soccer World Cup.  South African and African Citizens as a whole have finally accepted that we not only have the confidence, but also the capability to successfully host an event of this magnitude.

The Soccer World Cup has greatly boosted the image of the country and has far reaching benefits for South Africa into the future.

The feeling of pride and national unity which has been enhanced by the event must be a platform to motivate and to maintain the momentum gained and progress to the level of addressing other challenges faced by our country and communities in the same productive and creative manner.

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DMPSP senior staff are all attending a course hosted by the City Of Johannesburg on Community Development, Xenophobia and Social Exclusion.

The main aim is to train community leaders (especially the Youth) around issues that lead to Xenophobic Attacks.

We will be finished with the course by the 26 June 2010 and will provide a complete report on the course content and the possible effects it will have to combat Xenophobia in South Africa.

So far what we can say is that we laud the efforts by the City in taking some initiative towards combating Xenophobia.

The effectiveness and value of the course, however, we will have to keep a close eye on, monitor and evaluate.

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Today during a march by the Municipal workers Union in Mhluzi township , Middleburg Mpumalanga several Pakistani Shop Owners were attacked, their shops looted and even burnt to the ground.

Police claim the situation is under control and nine arrests have been made.

Foreign shop owners have been ordered by residents to leave the area.

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