[DEBATE] : Xenophobia: action still lacking one year after
dominic.tweedie at gmail.com
Sat May 9 07:06:07 BST 2009
8th May 2009
Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CoRMSA), Press Statement
One Year Later: More Action Needed to Prevent Further Violence and Xenophobia
Exactly one year after residents of Alexandra turned on their
neighbours unleashing a chain of violence across the country,
foreigners in South Africa face continued threats of xenophobic
violence. Little has been done by authorities to address the root
causes of the violence and as a result, threats of violence against
foreigners remain common in some communities.
The attacks that began on 11th May 2008 sparked some of the worst
violence that South Africa has experienced since the advent of
democracy. 62 people were killed and thousands displaced and,
collectively, not enough has been done to ensure that further attacks
do not target non-nationals, marginal South Africans or anyone who is
not seen as ‘belonging’ within a particular community.
There remain a number of challenges that collectively government,
civil society and international organisations in South Africa need to
address to prevent further violence. Vigilantism remains common with
individuals taking the law into their own hands in the name of
‘fighting crime’. One such incident led to two non-nationals being
forced to jump to their deaths from a high-rise building in Durban in
January this year. An eThekwini City councillor has been charged in
connection with the incident.
Violent strikes and service delivery protests continue. In the past
these have often resulted in attacks on non-nationals. There are
currently insufficient mechanisms to deal with community concerns
before people resort to protests.
Statements from leading politicians continue to cause divisions in
South Africa with some openly xenophobic statements being attributed
to leaders. These reinforce the many prejudices held within South
Africa society and prevent the social cohesion South Africa so
desperately needs to prevent vulnerable individuals or groups being
Accountability of those responsible for public violence remains
minimal. Too few perpetrators of last year’s violence have thus far
been successfully prosecuted and it appears there have been
insufficient investigations into those responsible for instigating and
fueling the violence in some areas. There has also thus far been no
public inquiry by government.
There remain insufficient conflict resolution mechanisms in place in
many areas to address tension when it emerges before it results in
violence. Since May 2008, further threats of violence against
non-nationals have occurred in Diepsloot, Tsakane, Potchefstroom,
Erasmia and other areas and it is largely left to the police and a few
well-intentioned individuals to prevent violence.
Yet in many cases, the cause of the conflict is not addressed. No
government department currently takes responsibility to consistently
address such conflict.
There do not currently appear to be policing strategies to monitor
crimes targeting particular groups at risk. Seemingly ‘isolated
attacks’ on non-nationals continue in particular areas and greater
monitoring of these trends will allow for the creation of better
strategies to prevent vulnerable groups being targeted.
Following the election of 22nd April, we welcome in a new government.
This is an opportunity for us to collectively address our shortcomings
and assess how we can jointly ensure that South Africa lives up to the
ideals enshrined in our Constitution. Let us ensure that safety and
security for all in South Africa remains a priority of the new
government and that we build greater linkages between government,
civil society and international organisations to develop joint
strategies to address the security needs of all. We call on President
Zuma and his new administration to condemn xenophobia and to introduce
measures to ensure that South Africa deals with this scourge.
For further information, please contact:
Duncan Breen (CoRMSA) - 011 403 7561 or 072 200 0383 (Friday only).
Sicel’mpilo Shange-Buthane (CoRMSA) - 011 403 7562 or 076 569 8364 (Monday only)
Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh (Lawyers for Human Rights and Chairperson of
CoRMSA) -011 339 1960 or 084 514 8039
Dr Loren Landau (Director, Forced Migration Studies Programme) – 011
717 4038 or 083 453 4183
Tara Polzer (Forced Migration Studies Programme) - 011 717 4031 or 083 379 529
The Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CoRMSA) is
the South African national network of refugee and migrant service
providers. It is mandated to co-ordinate the national network and
advocate on behalf of its member organisations to bring about social
change. Its members are Amnesty International, Black Sash, Centre for
the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, Christians for Peace in
Africa, Co-ordinating Body of Refugee Communities, Durban Refugee
Service Providers Network, Forced Migration Studies Programme, Jesuit
Refugee Service, Lawyers for Human Rights, Musina Legal Advice Office,
Refugee Children’s Project, Refugee Ministries Centre, Refugee
Pastoral Care, South African Red Cross, Southern African Centre for
the Survivors of Torture. Tutumike Network, University of Cape Town
Law Clinic and University of Witwatersrand Law Clinic. For more
information, please visit www.cormsa.org.za.
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