[DEBATE] : FW: Lacxk of response to Xenophobic outbursts
okhela at iafrica.com
Mon Feb 2 06:00:00 GMT 2009
'Lack of leadership' blamed for weak response to violence
A LACK of political leadership was largely responsible for SA's poor
humanitarian response to last year's wave of xenophobic violence, says a
University of the Witwatersrand's research report.
It has concluded that both the government and civil society were woefully
unprepared for what was the first large-scale internal displacement crisis
It ascribes the absence of clear responsibility to the vagueness of
disaster-management guidelines, including the fact that most of the
displaced were foreigners.
The report, which will be released this week, follows research commissioned
by the South African office of the British charity Oxfam and conducted by
the University of the Witwatersrand's Forced Migration Studies Programme.
Its findings arise from fieldwork conducted in Gauteng and Western Cape.
The two provinces were the worst affected by the violence in which 62 people
died and more than 80000 were displaced.
Despite the ever-present likelihood of future emergencies, the report says
SA does not seem to have drawn crucial lessons from the humanitarian crisis.
It warns that the momentum and experience gained in the months following the
May attacks appears already to be dissipating. It says the fledgling
co-ordination structures that had developed between the government and civil
society have collapsed, "returning the sector to a similar state of
fragmentation as before the disaster".
Regular forums and information-sharing websites are no longer active.
While SA's initial emergency response was "laudable", organisationally it
was chaotic. SA's Disaster Management Act (2002) and Disaster Management
Framework (2004) are relatively new and untested for civic disturbances and
The report notes that international humanitarian organisations provided
important advice and assistance during the emergency, but could not dispatch
immediate operational presence on the ground.
Since the displaced were foreigners, this affected the quality of the
disaster response, with some government officials worried that it might fuel
further resentment and violence against foreigners if they were seen
receiving more assistance than locals.
The study laments civil society's absence from governmental disaster
The report urges civil society to establish a standing disaster- management
structure or network dedicated to early warning, information sharing,
communication, co-ordination and monitoring.
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