Cape Town protest against xenophobic violence
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STOP PRESS: Read the memorandum and pledge delivered by the thousands who marched against xenophobia in Johannesburg on May 24, and the statement of the Anti-Privatisation Forum following the successful march.
See also ``Xenophobia tears apart South Africa's working class'' by Thandokuhle Manzi and Patrick Bond.
Watch South Africa: The New Apartheid, on the South African government's treatment of migrant workers and refugees and the involvement of racist white farmers.
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May 21, 2008 -- According to the UN Integrated Regional Information Networks, as of May 19, 2008, the death toll in a wave of attacks targeting foreigners around South Africa's main city of Johannesburg has risen to at least 32, with an estimated 6000 people seeking shelter in police stations, churches and community halls. The violence has spread to Zandspruit, northwest of Johannesburg, and Tembisa, Primrose, Reiger Park and Thokoza, on the eastern perimeter of the city, as well as other working-class communities.
Thousands in Johannesburg protest against xenophobia, May 24, 2008 (more here and here and here). More coverage in Comments below.
South African newspapers ran horrific images of people set alight by angry mobs, who roamed townships during the weekend looking for foreigners and looting their shops and homes. In the Troyville area, just east of the central business district and historically a migrant enclave, shops were closed and the usually busy streets were quiet. An estimated 2000 people had taken refuge in the nearby Jeppe Street police station after violence at the weekend.
President Thabo Mbeki announced on May 18 that a panel had been set up to investigate the attacks, but the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), a constitutionally mandated watchdog, accused the government of failing to take the threat of xenophobia seriously.
Below are some of the responses by South Africa's left organisations and trade unions. More will be posted as they become available.
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AWAY WITH HATRED AND FEAR!
DOWN WITH XENOPHOBIA!
THE ENEMIES OF THE POOR IN SOUTH AFRICA ARE NOT THE POOR FROM OTHER COUNTRIES.
LET US FIGHT TOGETHER AGAINST A CAPITALIST SYSTEM THAT KEEPS US ALL IN POVERTY.
MARCH AGAINST XENOPHOBIA AND HATE
SATURDAY 24TH MAY GATHERING FROM 9AM
VENUE: PIETER ROOS PARK (Empire and Hospital Road)
March will proceed through Hillbrow and stop at the Departments of Home Affairs and Housing before ending at the Library Gardens. The message marchers will be conveying is that our struggle is common and knows no borders.
CALLED BY THE SOCIAL MOVEMENTS INDABA
It is a sad day for South Africa when we see our brothers and sisters from other countries being attacked, killed and injured in our communities and streets. This is not the kind of South Africa we want. We want a country where everyone can enjoy our hard-won freedoms, where everyone has a job, a decent place to live and where we do not have to struggle for the basic necessities of life. That is the kind of South Africa we fought so hard for and we must continue to fight for. We must not allow ourselves to become full of hatred and anger against those from other countries who live in our communities and who are also poor and fighting for the same things. They are not to blame for our problems.
The poverty that we continue to experience 14 years after our independence is caused by a capitalist system that wants to keep us poor. The reason why so many of us have no jobs is because our government has adopted policies that favour the rich. It is not our brothers and sisters from Zimbabwe, or Mozambique or anywhere else that are responsible for us living in shacks, that are responsible for our lack of adequate water and electricity. It is the policies of GEAR [neoliberal macroeconomic policy of the African National Congress -- ANC], corrupt councillors, greedy capitalists and an ANC government that has forgotten the poor. The poor from other countries that now live with us here in South Africa are escaping the same kind of oppression, corruption and greed. The poor, wherever they are, are being exploited and oppressed by the same capitalist class.
Blaming and attacking immigrants will not solve anything – it will only create further anger and conflict within poor communities. The only ones who will benefit are those who continue to feed off the desperation and poverty of the poor. It is clear that the recent attacks are the work of a small minority who want to take advantage of the anger and frustration is our communities to help themselves and make enemies out of those who are our fellow brothers and sisters in struggle. We must come together as communities and put a stop to this NOW!
We cannot, and must not, allow ourselves to be manipulated to support actions which make our communities to live in fear. We must organise and defend our communities and everyone who lives in them from those who want to tear us apart through hatred and greed. We cannot rely on the government and police to serve us and protect the poor – whether South African or immigrant - as they should be doing. We must come together as communities - whether we are ANC members, workers, civic activists, church-goers, youth – and show that we have the collective will and power to defeat those who would make us all live in fear and create division and hatred amongst ourselves. Let us all stand up together and fight the real enemies of poverty and desperation.
For further information/comment contact APF Organiser – Silumko Radebe on 072 173-7268 or at the APF office on 011 333-8334
FORWARD TO THE UNITY OF THE OPPRESSED!
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Johannesburg, May 24, 2008.
By Blade Nzimande, South African Communist Party general secretary
May 21, 2008 -- The current wave of xenophobic attacks must be strongly condemned by all South Africans. So has the SACP expressed its strongest condemnation of these attacks. Not only are these attacks barbaric and inhumane, but this is a hugely embarrassing spectacle for South Africans, both domestically and internationally. This is especially so for those of us who have been such a huge beneficiary of international solidarity. Perhaps that is one of the aims of the clearly planned barbaric attacks on our African working class and poor brothers and sisters, to undermine the international prestige of South Africa and its peoples.
It is not enough merely to express our strongest possible condemnations; we need to take strong and visible action both in the short and medium term. One of the immediate short-term measures must be strong law enforcement as well as preventative legal measures in order to urgently contain the situation.
However, safety and security measures on their own are not adequate.
Our organisations, especially alliance and progressive community formations, need to urgently engage communities in affected areas and beyond in order to isolate and deal with those behind these barbaric actions. Indeed, the SACP has instructed its provincial structures to do just that. Our senior leadership will join forces with provincial structures to ensure this engagement is effective.
We should treat these developments as a wakeup call for all our formations, including the state security structures. These developments call for very serious self-reflection, criticism and self-criticism. How does it happen that none of our political or community structures knew about such serious plans to attack “foreigners”? How come the state intelligence structures were also caught unaware? Not only that, even after the eruptions in Alexandra, and the prior events in Tshwane and parts of the Western Cape, why were we not able to prevent these xenophobic acts, and then stop them spreading to Ekurhuleni and other parts of Johannesburg?
To answer these questions, we have to look at some of the underlying causes for xenophobia and its current violent expressions.
The failures of structural adjustment programmes and predatory capitalism
As we have argued in previous editions, the Economic Structural Adjustment Programmes (ESAPs) imposed on virtually the whole of the Southern African region by the IMF since the 1980s, have been an unmitigated failure. Not only did they fail in their promise to improve the lives of the people of our country, but in many instances they even rolled back some of the positive gains that a lot of our countries had made since independence (including gains around access to food and basic services, education and health).
Since 1994, many of the displaced workers and peasants of our region, as well as professionals, have been migrating (legally and illegally) to a democratic South Africa, mostly as economic refugees seeking better opportunities for sustainable livelihoods.
Despite the many modest gains that our own democracy has made since the 1994 democratic breakthrough, our own self-imposed structural adjustment programme, GEAR, failed to make a dent in unemployment (unemployment actually increased dramatically between 1996 and 2006), and eroded the capacity to build a developmental state. It instead became welfarist, with now more than 12 million people relying on social grants of some sort.
The political and economic meltdown in Zimbabwe has put more pressure on South Africa to absorb even more economic refugees from that country, as well as from many other countries.
The net effect of the above developments has been that it has been the poor of South Africa who have had to absorb the poor from our region.
This has happened in two ways. Firstly, it is the poor communities in the informal settlements that have had to share their space and minimal resources with the poor from our region. The bourgeoisie and the middle classes have been shielded from the responsibility of carrying the burden of the failure of the ESAPs in our region and the crisis particularly in Zimbabwe, and they are literally shielded behind their high walls in the leafy suburbs. Elites from other countries in our region are also not bearing the brunt of this economic (and political) meltdown.
Secondly, there has been a rapid regionalisation of South Africa`s labour force, especially over the last 8 to 10 years, with an increasing transformation of the division of labour in some of the key sectors of our economy. South Africa’s capitalist class has fully exploited the vulnerability of workers from the rest of our SADC region, more often at the direct expense of South African workers, by paying them slave wages and subjecting them to working conditions that are at variance with South Africa’s labour market regime.
These realities have also not been helped - in fact, they may have been worsened - by the predatory rather than development role of South African private capital in our region. Many South African companies investing in the rest of the continent have fully exploited weak labour market regimes in the region to maximise their profits and are contributing very little to the broader developmental agenda in the region.
It is therefore not the poor from our Southern African region who are stealing the jobs and sustainable livelihoods of South Africa’s workers and the poor, but the predatory practices of the capitalist class, both in South Africa and in the African continent.
The lesson from this is that any notion of an “African renaissance” not accompanied by radical economic policies to change the conditions of the workers and the poor, including challenging the predatory practices of capitalism in the continent, is nothing else but the new and modern opium for the people - a “feel-good” attitude, with no accompanying transformatory measures!
The political economy of our local state
The current violence is also a reflection of the contradictory reality of advances and setbacks in our own local government system. Since the 1994 democratic breakthrough, our government has indeed provided many crucial local services and transformed the undemocratic nature of local government that we inherited from apartheid.
However, these advances have been mediated, and threatened, by the simultaneous new patronage and corrupt practices that have not only engulfed local government, but also the national and provincial government levels.
Whilst most of our councillors are doing great work in their service to our communities, a significant section of our ANC councillors have become so corrupt that their behaviour seriously threatens to undo the many gains we have made since our 1994 democratic breakthrough. For instance, why are housing allocations done by councillors instead of being collectively approved by our municipal councils and management?
How come in some areas, councillors directly select people to be employed in municipal infrastructural projects? In many of our areas, such councillors are not accounting to the ward committees and municipal councils, and are thus not representing the interests of our people. They have become nothing more than “indunas” in their wards, with many of the ward committees being nothing but “induna-controlled committees”. We have to confront the fact that many such practices take place in ANC-controlled wards. Some of our own councillors illegally take bribes and allocate `RDP houses` to undeserving people who are both South African and non-South African citizens! These corrupt practices create fertile ground for intra-community conflict and xenophobia, exploited by reactionary and anti-ANC local elites bent on achieving their own narrow political goals.
Johannesburg, May 24, 2008.
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Our main criticism of the ANC prior to the ANC`s 52nd Polokwane Conference has been that it has been captured by what we have called the “1996 Class Project”, which is an alliance between sections of domestic and global capital, emergent black sections of the (petty) bourgeoisie, mediated by sections of our own cadres occupying key positions within the state. One of the critical outcomes of this has been the demobilisation of the ANC branches and the “colonisation” of the ANC by state structures. This has turned the ANC into nothing more than an electoral party, divorced from the day-to-day struggles of the overwhelming majority of its members and various constituencies.
The current violence against “foreigners” is one particular expression of the weakening and “near-decay” of the structures of the ANC on the ground, and their inability to lead progressive community struggles and failure to detect reactionary plans against our African brothers and sisters.
These events do not only expose an ANC that is incapable of mobilising communities outside of election campaigns, but also a seriously weak SACP. The weakness of the SACP on the ground is a reflection of the combined effect of the extent to which the 1996 class project marginalised SACP and alliance structures in general and the extent to which a number of our SACP structures were actually co-opted by, and actively collaborated with, the 1996 class project dominant within the ANC and the state. This happened in a number of areas in the country.
All these features of the politics and economics of South Africa’s locality have contributed significantly towards the weakening of our organisational structures.
It is clear that given the pattern, planning and timing of these violent attacks, there is a counter-revolutionary agenda, with an eye towards discrediting the ANC and influencing next year’s national elections. This is a well-orchestrated campaign, exploiting the very real frustrations of the poor in our country.
It is indeed possible that these counter-revolutionary forces are exploiting what they see as “divisions” within the ANC and the relative uncertainty of this transitional period between the ANC’s Polokwane Conference and the 2009 elections. It might also be a test of the strength, resilience and capacity of both the ANC and the state to withstand such pressure.
A fundamental question that we have to answer is to what extent we have succeeded in demobilising the counter-revolutionary forces of the 1980s into the early 1990s, and in changing the social conditions of our people that were exploited by these forces at the time? The current wave of violence has all the hallmarks of the violence of the early 1990s, particularly in Gauteng.
Like in the early 1990s, hostels seem to be the main platform from which the current violence is being planned and unleashed.
The urgency of dealing with this situation should also be informed by the fact that there is a real danger that this violence can quickly be transformed into ethnic violence amongst South Africans themselves.
It may therefore be appropriate to consider this violence not just as xenophobia, but as a counter-revolutionary offensive aimed at our movement and at undermining all we have achieved through our democracy.
What is to be done?
Immediate action is required by the security forces to clamp down hard on the violence, with a particular focus on arresting and punishing the perpetrators. It is also of utmost importance for our communities to co-operate with the police in apprehending the perpetrators.
Of particular importance is that out of this tragedy there is perhaps an opportunity to frankly and honestly assess the state of our organisations, identifying some of the decay that was beginning to creep in, and begin a serious process of rebuilding our branch structures throughout the country.
In rebuilding our organisations, it is important also to pose the question of what kind of community structures and organisations we want to foster in our communities. For instance, is the task to rebuild SANCO or to build strong street committees as the new revolutionary nucleus for community organisation, or both?
Whichever way we answer this question, it is important to focus on the building of street committees as a new opportunity to organise and mobilise our communities to fight crime and for these also to be the new revolutionary nuclei around which to pursue our developmental agenda in the locality.
It is also important that organisation of casual and other vulnerable workers is intensified. This must include a deliberate strategy to ensure that all workers from the region are organised into unions.
This will lay a stronger basis for fighting against those employers exploiting the vulnerability of those workers from the rest of our region, and will help to build working class solidarity in the workplace and beyond.
From Umsebenzi Online, Volume 7, No. 8, 21 May 2008
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Everybody in our country knows, the Congress of South African Trade Unions has been at the forefront of the campaign to create jobs and eradicate poverty. For years we have fought to ensure that this struggle is
taken seriously and remains at the centre of the national agenda. COSATU has done everything in its power to give a voice to the voiceless and speak out against the intolerable levels of unemployment and poverty in
South Africa, and to explain the historical reasons for them and the policies we need to deal with the problem.
It is therefore shocking and disturbing to see that some workers and residents of poor communities believe that these problems are caused by foreign nationals and that they are attacking, robbing and killing those
foreigners they believe to be responsible, who are themselves victims of the same unemployment, poverty and crime.
They are totally wrong. The problems they face are rooted in years of apartheid which kept the majority of South Africans in desperate poverty and denied them any democratic means to improve their plight. Those problems persist today. The real level of unemployment, including those who have given up the attempt to find work is still over 35%. This means that around eight million are jobless. There are certainly not that
number of employed foreign immigrants. Even if they were all to leave tomorrow, the levels of unemployment would remain about the same, and so would the extent of poverty which afflicts at least half our population.
The same applies to crime. Criminals have been at work in South Africa for years -- robbing, murdering and raping – not just since the recent influx of immigrants. There can be no possible excuse for people who claim to be fighting crime to use exactly the same methods as the criminals against foreign immigrants.
Many of the pioneers of the South African trade unions were migrant workers from all over Southern Africa. Many of them led our movement in its early days. We have always insisted that human rights are not just for South Africans but for all people, regardless of where they have come from. We must stand together to defend the rights that our constitution and laws give to all those living within our boundaries.
If people are made scapegoats simply on the basis of their country of origin we will be on a slippery slope towards regionalism and tribalism and the destruction of the unity we have built in the trade unions and civil society organisations.
The only people who will gain from such disunity will be the people we should be blaming for our problems -- unscrupulous employers on the farms, in security firms and other sectors, who are exploiting desperate foreign workers by employing them on lower wages and benefits than they could get away with paying South African workers.
COSATU and its affiliates are fighting a daily battle to force such employers to comply with fair labour standards. We must place the blame on their shoulders, not those of their desperate, exploited workers, and
present a united front in the battle to win minimum standards of pay, benefits and health and safety protection for all workers.
The same applies in the communities. To achieve faster delivery of services we need strong, united civic movements. Attacking foreigners will not build new houses, but working together as communities is essential if we want to transform the environment where we live.
We must also unite to solve the problems of poverty and underdevelopment here in South Africa and throughout the region, so that workers are no longer driven to other countries to find work and food.
An injury to one is an injury to all!
Workers of the world unite!
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Our struggle and every real struggle is to put the human being at the centre of society, starting with the worst off.
An action can be illegal. A person cannot be illegal. A person is a person where ever they may find themselves.
If you live in a settlement you are from that settlement and you are a neighbour and a comrade in that settlement.
We condemn the attacks, the beatings, rape and murder, in Johannesburg on people born in other countries. We will fight left and right to ensure that this does not happen here in KwaZulu-Natal.
We have been warning for years that the anger of the poor can go in many directions. That warning, like our warnings about the rats and the fires and the lack of toilets, the human dumping grounds called relocation sites, the new concentration camps called transit camps and corrupt, cruel, violent and racist police, has gone unheeded.
Let us be clear. Neither poverty nor oppression justify one poor person turning on another. A poor man who turns on his wife or a poor family that turn on their neighbours must be opposed, stopped and brought to justice. But the reason why this happens in Alex and not Sandton is because people in Alex are suffering and scared for the future of their lives. They are living under the kind of stress that can damage a person. The perpetrators of these attacks must be held responsible but the people who have crowded the poor onto tiny bits of land, threatened their hold on that land with evictions and forced removals, treated them all like criminals, exploited them, repressed their struggles, pushed up the price of food and built too few houses, that are too small and too far away and then corruptly sold them must also be held responsible.
There are other truths that also need to be faced up to.
We need to be clear that the Department of Home Affairs does not treat refugees or migrants as human beings. Our members who were born in other countries tell us terrible stories about very long queues that lead only to more queues and then to disrespect, cruelty and corruption. They tell us terrible stories about police who demand bribes, tear up their papers, steal their money and send them to Lindela – a place that is even worse than a transit camp. A place that is not fit for a human being. We know that you can even be sent to Lindela if you were born in South Africa but you look ‘too dark’ to the police or you come from Giyani and so you don’t know the word for elbow in isiZulu.
We need to be clear that in every relocation all the people without ID books are left homeless. This affects some people born in South Africa but it mostly affects people born in other countries.
We need to be clear that many politicians, and the police and the media, talk about ‘illegal immigrants’ as if they are all criminals. We know the damage that this does and the pain that this causes. We are also spoken about as if we are all criminals when in fact we suffer the most from crime because we have no gates or guards to protect our homes.
We need to be clear about the role of the South African government and South African companies in other countries. We need to be clear about NEPAD. We all know what Anglo-American is doing in the Congo and what our government is doing in Zimbabwe. They must also be held responsible.
We all know that South Africans were welcomed in Zimbabwe and in Zambia, even as far away as England, when they were fleeing the oppression of apartheid. In our own movement we have people who were in exile. We must welcome those who are fleeing oppression now. This obligation is doubled by the fact that our government and big companies here are supporting oppression in other countries.
People say that people born in other countries are selling mandrax. Oppose mandrax and its sellers but don’t lie to yourself and say that people born in South African do not also sell mandrax or that our police do not take money from mandrax sellers. Fight for a police service that serves the people. Don’t turn your suffering neighbours into enemies.
People say that people born in other countries are amagundane (rats, meaning scabs). Oppose amagundane but don’t lie to yourself and say that people born in South Africa are not also amagundane. People also say that people born in other countries are willing to work for very little money bringing everyone’s wages down. But we know that people are desperate and struggling to survive everywhere. Fight for strong unions that cover all sectors, even informal work. Don’t turn your suffering neighbours into enemies.
People say that people born in other countries don’t stand up to struggle and always run away from the police. Oppose cowardice but don’t lie to yourself and say that people born in South Africa are not also cowards. Don’t lie to yourself and pretend that it is the same for someone born here and someone not born here to stand up to the corrupt, violent and racist police. Fight for ID books for your neighbours so that we can all stand together for the rights of the poor. Don’t turn your suffering neighbours into enemies.
People say that people born in other countries are getting houses by corruption. Oppose corruption but don’t lie to yourself and say that people born in South Africa are not also buying houses from the councillors and officials in the housing department. Fight against corruption. Don’t turn your suffering neighbours into enemies.
People say that people born in other countries are more successful in love because they don’t have to send money home to rural areas. Oppose a poverty so bad that it even strangles love. Live for a life outside of money by fighting for an income for everyone. Don’t turn your suffering neighbours into enemies.
People say that there are too many sellers on the streets and that the ones from outside must go. We need to ask ourselves why only a few companies can own so many big shops, why the police harass and steal from street traders and why the traders are being driven out of the cities. The poor man cutting hair and the poor woman selling fruit are not our enemies. Don’t turn your suffering neighbours into enemies.
We all know that if this thing is not stopped a war against the Mozambicans will become a war against all the amaShangaan. A war against the Zimbabweans will become a war against the amaShona that will become a war against the amaVenda. Then people will be asking why the amaXhosa are in Durban, why the Chinese and Pakistanis are here. If this thing is not stopped what will happen to a place like Clare Estate where the people are amaXhosa, amaMpondo, amaZulu and abeSuthu; Indian and African; Muslim, Hindu and Christian; born in South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Malawai, Pakistan, Namibia, the Congo and India.
Yesterday we heard that this thing started in Warwick and in the City centre. We heard that traders had their goods stolen and that people were being checked for their complexion, a man from Ntuzuma was stopped and for being ‘too black’. Tensions are high in the City centre. Last night people were running in the streets in Umbilo looking for ‘amakwerkwere’. People in the tall flats were shouting down to them saying ‘There are Congelese here, come up!” This thing has started in Durban. We don’t know what will happen tonight.
We will do everything that we can to make sure that it goes no further. We have already decided on the following actions:
1. We will resuscitate our relations with the street traders’ organisations and meet to discuss this thing with them and stay in daily contact with them.
2. We have made contact with refugee organisations and will stay in day to day contact with them. We will invite them to all our meetings and events.
3. We have made contact with senior police officers who we can trust, who are not corrupt and who wish to serve the people. They have given us their cell numbers and have promised to work with us to stop this immediately if it starts in Durban. We will ask all our people to watch for this thing and if it happens we’ll be able to contact the police that we can trust immediately. They have promised to come straight away.
4. We will put this threat on the agenda of all of our meetings and events.
5. We will discuss this in every branch and in every settlement in our movement.
6. We will discuss this with our allied movements like the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign and the Landless People’s Movement so that we can develop a national strategy.
7. In the coming days our members are travelling to the Northern Cape, the North West, Johannesburg and Cape Town to meet shack dwellers struggling against forced removal, corruption and lack of services. In each of these meetings we will discuss this issue.
8. We are asking all radio stations to make space for us and others to discuss this issue.
9. In the past we have not put our members born in other countries to the front because we were scared that the police would send them to Lindela. From now on we will put our members born in other countries in the front, but not with their fulll names because we still cannot trust all the police.
10. If the need arises here we will ask all our members to defend and shelter their comrades from other countries.
We hear that the political analysts are saying that the poor must be educated about xenophobia. Always the solution is to ‘educate the poor’. When we get cholera we must be educated about washing our hands when in fact we need clear water. When we get burnt we must be educated about fire when in fact we need electricity. This is just a way of blaming the poor for our suffering. We want land and housing in the cities, we want to go to university, we want water and electricity – we don’t want to be educated to be good at surviving poverty on our own. The solution is not to educate the poor about xenophobia. The solution is to give the poor what they need to survive so that it becomes easier to be welcoming and generous. The solution is to stop the xenophobia at all levels of our society. Arrest the poor man who has become a murderer. But also arrest the corrupt policeman and the corrupt officials in Home Affairs. Close down Lindela and apologise for the suffering it has caused. Give papers to all the people sheltering in the police stations in Johannesburg.
It is time to ask serious questions about why it is that money and rich people can move freely around the world while everywhere the poor must confront razor wire, corrupt and violent police, queues and relocation or deportation. In South Africa some of us are moved out of the cities to rural human dumping grounds called relocation sites while others are moved all the way out of the country. Some of us are taken to transit camps and some of us are taken to Lindela. The destinations might be different but it is the same kind of oppression. Let us all educate ourselves on these questions so that we can all take action.
We want, with humility, to suggest that the people in Jo’burg move beyond making statements condemning these attacks. We suggest, with humility, that now that we are in this terrible crisis we need a living solidarity, a solidarity in action. It is time for each community and family to take in the refugees from this violence. They cannot be left in the police stations where they risk deportation. It is time for the church leaders and the political leaders and the trade union leaders to be with and live with the comrades born in other countries every day until this danger passes. Here in Durban our comrades to stand with us when the Land Invasions Unit comes to evict us or the police come to beat us. Even the priests are beaten. Now we must all stand with our comrades when their neighbours come to attack them. If this happens in the settlements here in Durban this is what we must do and what we will do.
We make the following demands to the government of South Africa:
1. Close down Lindela today. Set the people free.
2. Announce, today, that there will be papers for every person sheltering in your police stations.
3. Ban the sale of land in the cities until all the people are housed.
4. Stop all evictions and forced removals immediately.
5. Do not build one more golf course estate until everyone has a house.
6. Support the people of Zimbabwe, not an oppressive government that destroys the homes of the poor and uses rape and torture to control opposition.
7. Arrest all corrupt people working in the police and Home Affairs.
8. Announce, today, a summit between all refugee organisations and the police and Home Affairs to plan how they can be changed radically so that they begin to serve all the people living in South Africa.
For further information of comment please contact:
S’bu Zikode: 0835470474
Zodwa Nsibande: 0828302707
Mnikelo Ndabankulu: 0797450653
Mashumi Figlan: 0795843995
Senzo (surname not given, he has no papers): 031 2691822
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May 21, 2008 -- The Social Movements Indaba (SMI) is mobilising social movements, immigrant communities, NGOs, unions, concerned residents from poor areas around the province for a march this Saturday, 24th of May. The march will gather at Pieter Roos Park (Empire and Hospital Road) from 9 am, proceed through Hillbrow and stop at the Departments of Home Affairs and Housing before ending at the Library Gardens. The message marchers will be conveying is that our struggle is common and knows no borders. Everyone who wants to make their voices heard should join us – our struggle knows no borders.
The Social Movements Indaba -– a co-ordinating national body of social movements, civil society and activist organisations –- is organising with its affiliated organisations and immigrant communities to roll back the groundswell of xenophobia. In the years since its formation in 2002, the SMI has linked organisations of the poor in struggle for basic services, international solidarity and against police repression. At its last national meeting in December in Cape Town, the SMI identified xenophobia as a pervasive problem in communities and undertook to campaign against hatred of foreigners. Now that the crisis of hate crime is no longer foreboding and is terrifyingly HERE, there is no time to stall and wish we were better prepared. We are without hesitation committed to the struggles for social justice, internationalism and solidarity with all repressed people.
While the police have been deployed to try keep a lid on the pressure that has boiled over, this is no solution to the safety and security of all. As a xenophobic force in Johannesburg pre-existing the outbreak of violence, the police cannot be trusted to be more than the brute barrier between perpetrators and their targeted victims. The South African Police Services and Johannesburg Metro Police harass immigrants to solicit bribes as a matter of practice. Calling on the police to ``do their work'' as President Thabo Mbeki and his [African National Congress] government have done does not, therefore, address the issues of safety and security amongst immigrant communities. The refugee communities do not trust the police as impartial arbiters of the conflict. The police conducted a brutal raid on the Central Methodist Church on the 31st of January 2008 under the pretext of crime prevention. Criminalisation of immigrants is a smokescreen for deportation and bribery that the police has not cleared.
Long-lasting safety and security for all does not include deportation of foreign nationals, whether voluntary or not. Xenophobia's origins lie within the conditions of poverty in which the majority of South Africans live. Immigrants have been targeted for their ethnic difference and for their very similarity with their persecutors. Seen as competitors for scarce jobs and housing, South Africans have misdirected their anger at conditions of poverty that are unchanging. Their fellow brothers and sisters who are enduring the same cannot be responsible for what the economic and political system has created.
While we struggle for a change to the neoliberal capitalist system that has created this reality, rearguard struggles for safety and security of immigrants in the country must continue. The SMI gives thanks for those humanitarian organisations, emergency services and churches that are trying to stem the tide of bloodletting and forced removals. We will organise against the creation of refugee camps and work towards the reintegration of immigrants in our communities. In working to recover our common humanity and restore calm, delegations from the SMI are meeting with community-based organisations in Alexandra and the inner city, and as the programme of action to roll-back the hate unfolds, the SMI will be going further afield to speak to affected communities.
For directions or other enquiries, please contact the Anti Privatisation Forum on 011 333 8334.
For comment, please contact: Silumko Radebe (APF) 0721737268; Mhlobo Gunguluzi (Khanya College) 0843773013; Brian Burayai (Refugee Fellowship) 0732865667
The Social Movements Indaba includes amongst other organisations: the Anti Privatisation Forum, Jubilee South Africa, Imbawula Trust, Sounds of Edutainment, Umzabalazo we Jubilee, Lesbian and Gay Equality Project, Inner City Resource Centre, Kliptown Concerned Residents, Khanya College, Earthlife Africa (Johannesburg), Palestinian Solidarity Committee, Golden Triangle Crisis Committee, Samancor Retrenched Workers Crisis Committee, African Renaissance Civic Movement, Group of Refugees Without Voice
* * *
The Thokoza branch of SANCO [South African National Civics Organisation], with allied community organisations, is inviting you to a press conference to announce its planned march to express disgust at inhuman xenophobic attacks on Africans from the North.
We are marching because these diabolic xenophobic attacks reverse all revolutionary gains we made since 1994. It reverses the internationalist role of, and impact of, our struggle against apartheid.
The Cubans in Cuito Cuinavale, Angola, laid down their lives for no
economic gain but to express solidarity with South Africans, Angolans, Namibians and love for humanity. The South African revolution and our new democracy is the product of sacrifices by ordinary people of Lesotho, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Angola, Zambia and Tanzania. These countries were attacked by the South African apartheid army because South Africans stayed and lived amongst their people. Therefore we condemn the attacks on our African brothers and sisters merely because they are not South Africans.
As far back as the 1950s and 1960s, Africans from all these countries, including Malawi and Kenya, died in South African mines. Others went back to their countries sick and poor; while on the other hand our economy, though under apartheid, grew in leaps and bounds.
For more information please contact: Moloantoa Molaba 082 455 3070, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Nzipho 084 880 4725
Bongani 083 352 6920
* * *
As at today, May 20, more than 20 people are dead, hundreds have been injured and thousands are homeless after the latest xenophobic attacks in the Gauteng province. Those that attacked these people say they were getting
rid of aliens and criminals who are stealing their jobs, their wives and their possessions.
But those that attacked
* gave victims no chance to defend themselves
* in some cases raped those they attacked
* in some cases stole from those they attacked
* burnt homes of those they attacked
* killed South Africans as well as ``aliens''.
Let's ask ourselves, who are the real criminals in these attacks?
Even if every so-called ``amakwerekwere'' left this country, we would still have unemployment. You just need to look at your workplace to see why. Capitalists are always trying to find ways of reducing their costs -- they outsource certain jobs, they put people on short term contracts, they close down certain sections of the company. And sometimes the company can't compete anymore and it closes down, forcing everyone onto the streets.
Fighting against our fellow workers is no way to change this. Only strong organisation can change the system that we currently live in.
First let's help the police root out criminals:
* work with the police and your community policing forum to restore law and order
* report criminals who cause instability
* protect women and children from assault and rape
* prevent armed gangs from looting and burning shops and homes.
And let's unite with our class, regardless of what language they speak or where they come from.
Let's unite against those who exploit us. We all want liberation from economic exploitation and a better life!
Stop the violence! Stop the looting!
Stop the raping! Stop the killing!
Build a caring society!
Issued by Numsa PO Box 260483 Excom 2023; May 20 2008
The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) calls on the state to urgently intervene in the deteriorating and escalating levels of xenophobic attacks in the country.
``The state should deploy the army to curb the terrible situation in which poor immigrants and local residents to some extent find themselves'', says Oupa Komane, the NUM's Deputy General Secretary.
``We believe the situation is characterized by high levels of criminality and hooliganism and therefore calls for the state to be
high handed'', says Komane. ``Many members of the NUM come from neighboring countries such as Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia, Swaziland and others. We therefore cannot allow the situation to be polarised further'', he says.
The NUM is disturbed that immigrants continue to be attacked, their belongings looted with little action from the security authorities. ``The government must send a strong unambiguous message to the hooligans who perpetrate this action by deploying the army to deal with them. We cannot beat about the bush when foreigners find themselves between a rock and a hard place'', says Komane.
The NUM has already lost two members at ERPM in Primrose with three having been admitted in hospital. ``We fear that this situation will deteriorate into ethnic clashes as our local people from Venda have also received threats'', he says.
Oupa Komane (NUM Deputy General Secretary)- 082 883 7292
Lesiba Seshoka (NUM spokesperson) – 082 803 6719
* * *
May 19, 2008
Issued by TAC National Council:
Treatment Action Campaign
The Treatment Action Campaign condemns the wave of xenophobic violence sweeping through communities in Gauteng. We call on Government to take action to halt the violence; to put in place a national strategy to protect the safety, health and well being of victims of xenophobic attacks and to take steps to prevent the violence from spreading further. With the violence now having spread to almost a dozen communities in and around Johannesburg and threats of violence issued elsewhere across the country, including Cape Town, we demand more effective action from Government to deal with the crisis.
Specifically we ask government to:
* Call together all political parties, President Mbeki and all political party leaders to
visit sites of violence and to condemn it in the strongest terms.
* Draft contingency plans, in consultation with relevant stakeholders, to manage
the violence and its after-effects should it spread to other areas of the country.
While we sincerely hope that the violence will be contained and halted in
Gauteng, we urge every municipality to put in place coherent strategies for
dealing with possible outbreaks of xenophobic violence.
* Designate and make available places of sanctuary for victims of xenophobic
attacks. The current system whereby victims take shelter at police stations is
unsustainable; Government must identify sites where large numbers of people
can be comfortably accommodated and easily protected.
* Distribute emergency social assistance packages to all displaced persons.
* Initiate a sustained media campaign condemning the violence. We ask for our
political leaders to be more visible and to go on radio and television condemning
TAC reluctantly calls for the deployment of the South African National Defence Force
(SANDF) to assist the police services in curbing the violence. Although
this brings back terrible memories of the Apartheid era, the police
services do not have the capacity to stop the violence without the
support of the SANDF. Ending violence and restoring dignity to
refugees, immigrants and undocumented migrants is not only the task of
government. All civil society organizations, charities, humanitarian
bodies and NGOs must establish a unified and coordinated response to
this national humanitarian emergency. TAC is working with the AIDS Law project, Lawyers for Human Rights, Legal Resources Centre, and other organisations to address the crisis.
Equal Treatment Issue 25 (June 2008) has been published. This edition of ET focuses specifically on the needs of refugees in Souh Africa, you can download an electronic copy at: http://www.tac.org.za/community/files/file/et25.pdf
Xenophobia is rife in South Africa. However, repression of immigrants, refugees and undocumented people goes beyond naked violence in poor communities. Earlier this year, police raided the Central Methodist Church in Johannesburg, beating up and arresting immigrants, mainly from Zimbabwe. The state systematically abuses the rights of immigrants: health workers deny treatment, home affairs officials demand bribes and police assault immigrants regularly. Then there are institutions like Lindela, where people are incarcerated in ghastly conditions before being deported despite not having committed any crime. This all goes on while the South African government refuses to recognise that people fleeing from Zimbabwe are refugees.
This issue of Equal Treatment contains a special report on the systematic abuse of the rights of immigrants. We hope that it galvanises South Africans to stand up against xenophobia, both by the state and in our communities.
* * *
ONGOING XENOPHOBIC ATTACKS
Nehawu joins all progressive minded South Africans and ordinary people in expressing their disgust at the current attacks against African brothers and sisters from the North. What is happening in Alexandra is completely unjustifiable, immoral and short sighted.
POVERTY UNEMPLOYMENT AND SLOW SERVICE DELIVERY
More than 40% of South Africans are unemployed. With the rise of food prices, petrol and the unending waiting list for RDP houses, more and more South Africans, particularly the working poor, are getting frustrated and angry. Given this anger and frustration it is easy for both legal and illegal immigrants to be used as scapegoats to explain some of the problems in our local communities. What's happening in Alexandra, previously happened in Attredgville, Khayaletsha and some of the Eastern Cape Townships. Attacks on immigrants reflect the frustration and misdirected anger we have referred to.
INTERNATIONALISM AND NEW SOUTH AFRICA
South African liberation is primarily a product of struggles led by South Africans to liberate themselves from the Apartheid system. However, international solidarity is one central pillar in our victory against Apartheid. Cubans flew 1000s of kilometers from their home to contribute to the liberation of Namibia and South Africa. They contributed to defending Angola and Mozambique.
Chris Hani stayed in Lesotho at some point during struggle against Apartheid. ANC Head quarters and Umkhonto We Sizwe camps were in Tanzania, Zambia and Angola. Many cadres stayed and studied in almost all African countries, particularly in the Southern African Countries.
In a nutshell, the victory of South African liberation is owed to Cubans, Namibians Zimbabweans, Angolans, people from Lesotho, and other Africans. Therefore there is no way we can justify the current attacks of other Africans.
As we speak today we have more than 100 Cuban doctors working in South African rural areas where South African doctors are unwilling to serve. We have hundreds of South Africa students studying in Cuba.
We call on ANC Alliance and all democratic forces in Alexandra and other affected communities to go on a massive visible and urgent campaign to educate our people that their misery is in part caused by capitalism, the impact of neo-liberal GEAR and the growing inequalities in society -- not Africans from the north. Our people must be made to understand sacrifices Cubans and other Africans made to our liberation. We unreservedly apologies to the victims of these xenophobic attacks and for the pain and damaged caused to their lives.
This statement was issued by the National Education Health and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU) Communications Department on 15 May 2008. For further information, visit NEHAWU website: www.nehawu.org.za.
The Struggle Continues. Well done comrades. Especially the following groups:
Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) Johannesburg, Black Sash, Amnesty International (South Africa), Action Aid International, Social Movements Indaba, Anti-Privatisation Forum, Jubilee South Africa, Imbawula Trust, Sounds of Edutainment, Umzabalazo we Jubilee, Lesbian and Gay Equality Project, Inner City Resource Centre, Kliptown Concerned Residents, Khanya College, Earthlife Africa (Johannesburg), Palestinian Solidarity Committee, Golden Triangle Crisis Committee, Samancor Retrenched Workers Crisis Committee, African Renaissance Civic Movement, Group of Refugees Without Voice, Pacifique Sukisa Foundation, Somali Association of South Africa (SASA), NEHAWU Johannesburg, Keep Left, Yeoville Stakeholders Forum, Ethiopian Community of South Africa (ECSA), Alternative Media Productions, Masibambane Unemployment Project, General Industrial Workers Union
By Marius Bosch May 24, 2008
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Thousands of people marched through South Africa's biggest city on Saturday, calling for an end to xenophobic violence that has killed over 40 African migrants and displaced tens of thousands.
Thousands of people, carrying placards saying "Xenophobia hurts like apartheid," and "We stand against xenophobia" brought traffic to a standstill in Johannesburg's business district.
People in the Hillbrow flatland district, home to many African immigrants, cheered the march, organized by church organizations and labor unions.
Police said townships around Johannesburg were quiet but shops were looted and burnt outside Cape Town late on Friday.
The South African government has been criticized for its slow reaction to the violence, the worst since apartheid ended 14 years ago, and for not adequately addressing poverty widely blamed for the bloodshed.
The conflict started in Johannesburg's Alexandra township on May 11, and has spread to Cape Town and the eastern port city of Durban.
At least 42 people have been killed and more than 25,000 driven from their homes in 13 days of attacks by mobs who have stabbed, clubbed and burnt migrants from other parts of Africa they accuse of taking jobs and fuelling crime.
Police said townships around Johannesburg were quiet on Saturday and in South Africa's premier tourism destination of Cape Town, security forces were monitoring several flashpoints after anti-foreigner violence continued during the night.
Superintendent Andre Traut said shops were looted and burnt in Du Noon squatter settlement and in Kraaifontein outside Cape Town, as well as the city's largest township, Khayelitsha where an estimated 1-million people stay.
"Most of the incidents (on Friday night) occurred in Khayelitsha where we had our hands full to protect the community," Traut said. Most foreigners left the area voluntarily or were escorted by police.
South Africa's foreign minister said on Friday the violence was embarrassing for the government and created a "very bad image" for the country. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma told Reuters in Moscow that the government would deal decisively with it.
Manala Manzini, head of the National Intelligence Agency, said on Friday people linked to former apartheid security forces were stoking the violence.
Earlier this week President Thabo Mbeki authorized the army to help quell the violence.
The violence comes amid power shortages and growing discontent which have rattled investors in Africa's biggest economy.
Officials in the tourism industry are worried overseas visitors will stay away. The country hopes to draw half a million extra tourists for the 2010 soccer World Cup.
(Reporting by Marius Bosch; Editing by Elizabeth Piper)
* * *
For those who cannot attend other events or otherwise would like to be
with us, we are holding two events in the coming week to deal with the
current situation, on Saturday May 25 and Tuesday May 27. The purpose is
to get artists, students, and culturati of all genres and backgrounds
together to create solutions and actions to doctor this infection.
MAY 25: "WE'RE ALL NIGERIANS" Party, headlined by DINA KEY AND THE BLUE DOTZ
MAY 27: Screening of film "Zimbabwe" followed by Imbizo Diskashin on
topic "Asylum??? SO WHAT NOW?"
PLEASE BRING canned goods, clothes, or other useful items to donate to
victims of xenophobia
AND PLEASE FORWARD TO EVERYONE YOU CAN
RE MAY 25, from NsAkO Creative Director Sifiso Ntuli:
Dear Fellow South African...
This madness must stop! No, we're not talking like a bunch of hopelessly
apologetic liberals here, this has to stop... Nuff Said!
At the House of NsAkO in Brixton this Saturday we have decided to join
the rest of progressive humanity to say "Enough Is Enuff", besides,
"We're ALL Nigerians!" Afrika Lives!!
With one of the best Afro-Jazz bands in a very long time, DINAKEYZ & THE
BLUE DOTS blessing the House of NsAkO stage this Saturday, following the
anti-xenophobia march, we will gather at the House for the biggest
celebration of all, the "WE'RE ALL NIGERIANS PARTY" - a people's
gathering to celebrate our Africaness which is currently under attack!
To quite a number of us who have been on this road for a mighty long
time, it is not surprising to find one slave attacking another, we're
not surprised in the least bit... Just like we stopped Apartheid dead on
His tracks, HATRED FOR ANYTHING AFRICAN SHALL BE STOPPED AS WELL, even
if it means...
Please take time to read the letter from Sistah Christiana below for the
details of what is going to happen, and then FOLLOW ORDERS, or better
still, CALL HER DIRECTLY, then follow the rest to the NuBrixton on
SATADAY to say ENUFF IS ENUFF!!!!
PS: PLEASE PASS THIS MESSAGE ON...
RE MAY 27:
DARKIEMENTARY FILIM NITE
@ THE HOUSE OF NSAKO
101 HIGH STREET BRIXTON
TUESDAY 27 MAY 2008
749 PM SHARP!
Further info attached.
Volume 8, No. 20 • 23 —29 May 2008
Xenophobia is a crime
May 25th is Africa Day. This marks the day that we, as Africans celebrate the formation of the Organisation of African Unity, the predecessor of the African Union. Today the African Union is an instrument to unite all the people of Africa both politically and economically.
On Sunday we will wake up in this country and celebrate the victories our forebears have had over colonialism and Apartheid.
Many of us, including myself, will think of the kindness we received in the poorest communities of Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania, Nigeria and many other African States. We will recall that our neighbours were collectively punished by the Apartheid regime for harbouring the cadres of the ANC. We will remember that our children were given spaces in overcrowded schools in remote rural villages, and when we were injured and ill, the hospitals of many African countries nursed us back to health.
Above all, when we wake up on Sunday morning we will remember that we are Africans. We will celebrate the fact that the African continent entrusted its Parliament, the Pan-African Parliament, to South Africa, which is located in Midrand, not far from one of the scenes of the horrendous attacks on South Africans and Foreign Nationals, which are our brothers and sisters from this continent.
It is on Sunday that we will go to church and bow our heads in prayer and many of us will pray for those who have been murdered, raped, injured, possessions looted, homes destroyed and displaced. Many of us will have taken from our own meagre resources to assist the people who fled to police stations for safety. We cannot but conclude that an injustice and crimes of a serious nature have been committed against fellow Africans, here in South Africa. To date 42 souls have been lost. Somewhere out there, somebody's mother, father, sister, brother, husband, wife, son or daughter will no longer come out to greet them.
In Alexandra, Tembisa, Thokoza, Reiger Park, along Jules Street in Johannesburg and in the city itself, homes and businesses have been looted and burnt. A shameful pogrom, ill informed and angry with people whom they perceive to be robbing them of their right to services. Is this the truth? The same mob that accused people of being criminals acted in the most obscene of criminal ways.
There is no room for this behaviour in our country ever; there is no reason that compels us to behave in this atrocious manner. For this reason we support the deployment of the SANDF to the effected areas, to do no more than support the police in rooting out the criminals who inspired these acts of barbarism.
We call on all anc members to:
There is no doubt that overcrowding and poverty has a hand to play in how people will react when they feel hard done by.
We have work to do comrades and friends.
We have to work hard to ensure that we root out corruption of the nature that robs us of our humanity. Many people have taken occupation of more than one RDP house and sell their houses instead of living in them. We must put a stop to this practice and expose all who are corrupt.
Our policies are not at fault, the policies of the ANC seek to fight poverty and to provide services to the people. We have to ensure that we do the job that needs to be done to make delivery efficient and effective.
We call on all public representatives and civil servants, to make our country work for all who live in it.
Let us fight crime and corruption and work together to build this unique nation.
On sunday 25 may, let us take the lead wherever we are to ensure that we celebrate africa day as fellow africans and condemn xenophobia for the henious crime that it is.
Let us support the police in their work they must do to rid our streets, hostels and informal settlements of criminals
** Gwede Mantashe is Secretary General of the ANC.
Youth must rise against thuggery and hooliganism
South Africa is a thriving democracy brought about by the sweat and blood of our forebears anchored on the liberation struggle that placed human rights and human dignity at its pinnacle. Ours is a society that is an integral part of the African continent and our destiny is intrinsically linked to that of our fellow comrades across Africa. We therefore have a responsibility to ensure that those who come to our shores seeking refuge for whatever reason are treated humanely.
Those who believe they have an unfettered right to murder, loot and destroy the property of others because they are not South African are not deserving of our hard-won freedom, and have no place in our society. We have noted with dismay that young people seem to be at the forefront of these despicable attacks. We call on our youth to defend our hard-won freedom and our democracy with everything they have. They must rise against this thuggery and hoologanism and claim back their communities. All ANC Youth League branches must assume leadership in this regard working closely with ANC branches and other organs of civil society to ensure that order prevails in our communities and that our people are educated on the kind of society we espouse.
We further condemn with contempt those who participate in these criminal activities using the name of the ANC and singing revolutionary songs like "Umshini wami" while perpetrating crime. If any of our members are found to be participating in these activities, we expect our structures to take the harshest possible action against them.
While we acknowledge that service delivery challenges loom large in our townships, our people must not be hoodwinked by criminal elements who claim to have a solution to their plight. Killing others and burning their homes does nothing for our society, and may cloud genuine concerns they may have. We call on government to unleash every resource at its disposal to nip this anarchy in the bud, including the deployment of the military if the need arises.
We do not believe the government has done enough to arrest this anarchy and we expect swift and decisive action from the law enforcement agencies and other relevant organs of state. Those who quell this anarchy must be apprehended and the criminal justice system must ensure that they rot in jail. We call on our communities to work with the law enforcement agencies to identify these thugs and ensure that they are removed from our communities as they have no place in our society.
** Julius Malema is President of the ANC Youth League.
Anti Privatisation Forum
Statement on the Anti Xenophobia March in Johannesburg which took place on Saturday, 24 March 2008
Monday 26th May 2008
The Anti Privatisation Forum with the Social Movements Indaba and a large coalition of organisations marched on Saturday 24 May 2008 against xenophobia and hate, through the inner city of Johannesburg to the Gauteng Legislature to submit a memorandum to government. The public responded to the call from the Coalition Against Xenophobia in a colourful demonstration for the inclusion of foreigners in our communities. Over 5000 people marched despite SMS messages circulated in ANC circles discouraging participation in a march organised by the 'ultra left'. Well, thanks then to the ultra left for mobilising communities and concerned residents of Johannesburg against the insidious hatred bred by poverty, developing links with immigrant communities and being clear about why we are poor.
Fears are patrolling our freedom and already determine with who or what South Africans associate with. It is regrettable that the APF can report that the buses from its affiliates in Atteridgeville and Shoshanguve had to be cancelled for threatened reprisals. Buses and taxis from other townships did otherwise arrive for the march unhindered. For APF comrades, this was a march unlike any other – at its start at the Pieter Roos Park below Constitutional Hill, the Minister of Public Service and Administration, assumed the platform to number herself among the 'we Africans united against the scourge of hatred'; one demonstrator at the march held a placard professing – ‘Free markets/Free Immigration/Free South Africa’. Nonetheless, the vast majority of the marchers were agreed that the government’s consistent failure to deliver adequate basic services to poor communities, combined with macro-economic policies that have benefited corporate capital/the rich, are a large part of what is behind the explosion of xenophobia and hatred amongst the poor who live in this country. The memorandum addressed to Premier Mbazima Shilowa as well as the Departments of Housing and Home Affairs calls on the "South African government to acknowledge its role in the crisis, and to assume responsibility for providing solutions to the problems that speak to the root causes of the problem." This would include, the memorandum stated, the suspension of "the neo-liberal macro-economic policy approach."
the government will be hard-headed in its insistence on finding a criminal
motivation to the xenophobic attacks, the demands submitted to government are
unlikely to be met. What the demonstration did achieve was an affirmation of
African working class unity and to break the spell of tension that has been
stalking Johannesburg streets for the last two weeks. Residents of Hillbrow and
the inner city cheered the march from their balconies as is it proceeded down
Claim and Pritchard streets. The loudest cheer en route to the Gauteng
legislature came from the predominately Zimbabwean refugees at the Central
Methodist Church. Immigrants taking refuge at the church had prepared to come
to the march but their busses to the starting point had been delayed. Banners
they had prepared the evening before were as critical of government's policies
as the Coalition's memorandum: 'Mr Mbeki: is this what you call quiet
diplomacy.' Incensed by the xenophobic coverage in the South African press,
particularly the Daily Sun tabloid, another wit declared, 'Aliens are what you
find on Pluto'.
Amongst the speakers on the march was a representative from the Refugee Fellowship based at the Central Methodist Church. Representatives of the Zimbabwean, Congolese, Cameroonian, Ethiopian, Mozambican, Somali and Nigerian immigrant communities also had opportunities to speak, all welcoming the solidarity demonstration. As government continues to treat the xenophobia as a criminal phenomenon, they have very little faith that the police will do anything to solve the problem. The South African police violently raided the Central Methodist Church in January this year, brutalising the desperate people sleeping on floors there. How can the police be trusted to find a solution to xenophobia when so many of them are confirmed xenophobes, relating to foreigners as cash machines? When the Remmoho Women's Group visited Alexandra police station on Tuesday, 20th May, refugees there spoke of harassment by members of the police force.
The solution to xenophobia is for 'the enemy at home' to be targeted by our organisation and our action. These enemies are not foreign immigrants but the corporate and government elites who commodify our basic resources, retrench workers, casualise employment, profit-gouge on basic necessities most crucial to the poor and engage in double-speak when it comes to treating all who live in South Africa with fairness, equality, and humanness. Treating xenophobic South Africans only as criminals reminds the APF of government's criminalisation of our members who protest for basic services. Both xenophobia and service delivery protests will not go away unless those with political and socio-economic power listen to the poor, unless social development involves people and is not conceived as a benefit trickling down from investments. With the upsurge in violence, the ANC government must, with all urgency, acknowledge that the time to start back-pedalling on its failed policies and arrogant political ‘rule’ is NOW!.
Pictures of the march can be found at:
Health and Human Rights Groups Condemn Cape Town Mayor Helen Zille for
Promotion of Internment Camps in Current Xenophobic Crisis
(Cape Town, South Africa, 27 May 2008)—the Treatment Action Campaign
(TAC), AIDS Law Project (ALP) and the AIDS and Rights Alliance for
Southern Africa (ARASA) jointly condemn Helen Zille, the Mayor of Cape
Town, for her continued insistence on setting up internment camps in
remote locations throughout the Cape Town Metro area to deal with the
thousands of people displaced by xenophobic violence and harassment
over the past two weeks.
Based on sound principles of public health and human rights as well as
accepted procedures for the management of displaced persons, we are
calling for all individuals to be sheltered as close to where they
originally resided, so that they can be near their regular health
facilities, schools and places of employment. Furthermore, we believe
that seeking local solutions for displaced persons can foster
voluntary reintegration into communities, which exile to internment
camps far from their original homes will simply make more difficult.
Additionally, filling up camps with thousands of people in close
proximity is a severe infectious disease risk for diarrhoea,
tuberculosis, and other serious infection. Finally, setting up a
parallel system of public services in the internment camps, including
health and sanitation, is inefficient and will create further stress
on normal provision of these services around the city and the
We call on Cape Town Mayor Helen Zille and Western Cape Premier
Ebrahim Rasool to work together to ensure that displaced persons find
shelter as close to their original homes as possible, by opening all
public facilities under the jurisdiction of the city and the province
to temporarily house these individuals as the first step towards
community reintegration. The groups are also calling for additional
resources to be made available to promote reintegration of displaced
persons and their access to essential services as well as to protect
their health, safety and well-being. If these demands are not met
TAC, ALP and ARASA will consider legal action to ensure that the
internment camps are shut down and their inhabitants reintegrated into
their local communities of origin in a timeous manner.
In this vivid and personal account, Stephen Faulkner drives through the unfolding xenophobic attacks in South Africa.
Friends, this is simply an account of what I saw and experienced in a twenty four period. It might be incomplete. It is not an analytical piece as such, but I hope a small step towards trying to understand what had taken place in this city, in this country that I have come to love.
Last night as we drove from the centre of Joburg to the eastern suburb of Kensington, we wondered why the police helicopter was circling over Jeppes Town, the historic centre of this city built on gold. The area is now mostly an industrial relic and has seen far better times, part wasteland, part small enterprises and a big part, home of one of the largest mens hostels in the City.
We had been discussing earlier the violence in Alex, the eruptions in other parts, and what we felt was the cause, and the inadequate response of the State. We had participated earlier in the day in a demonstration called by our Union Federation to protest against rising food prices, and against xenophobia, an issue that had been tagged on after foreigners had been brutally attacked in Alexandria township and other places. We had taken our son and his friend, and their enthusiasm had helped to minimise the disappointingly low numbers who had turned up.
We slept that night within earshot of police sirens and the whirring of helicopters and wondered what we would wake to.
At 9.00am Lesego rang the bell. A small boy for his sixteen years, wirey but capable of dribbling a football as if his feet had magnetic powers. I let him in, and he looked terrified. He had traveled from Soweto, as he did every fortnight, to come and do odd jobs to earn an allowance that he depends on to survive. We would normally have a talk about his schooling, the continuing absence of contact with his mother, and his living conditions. We hoped this might help him be capable of getting through the next hurdles he inevitably faced.
But this morning, it was fear that was etched on his face. Scrunched up in his pocket was the small round hat favoured by members of the Moslem community. Getting off the taxi at Jeppe Station, he noticed a crowd of men beating two people on the ground with knobkerries. One of those doing the beating looked up, saw him and shouted, ‘Hey you, alien, come here’. He didn’t wait to answer. Snatching the hat from his head, he sprinted like a springbok, and ran the kilometre to our house in sheer terror.
A quiet and reserved young man, we somehow managed to calm him down with sweet tea and reassurances. He was thinking hard before he finally spoke.
‘These people have not been educated’ he said. ‘They think it is the foreigners who are to blame. I fear them, but I also feel sorry for them. They think that killing poor people like themselves is going to make it better for them’.
Later I dropped him in town to connect with his taxi to Soweto, and the shack where he lived alone without electricity to read his homework and prepare for his exams the next day. Without the means to cook himself even a simple supper.
As I circled town to return home I came across hundreds and hundreds of bedraggled people, milling around an infamous taxi rank area. I pulled up next to a police woman on duty. I asked her what was going on. ‘It’s the Zimbabweans’ she said matter of factly, ‘They have come out of the Methodist Centre because there is trouble there’ And when I asked her what sort of trouble she simply said ‘Something to do with Bishop Verrayn’.
Some months earlier, the Methodist centre managed by the Bishop as a makeshift refuge for hundreds of destitute Zimbabweans, had been raided by the police in a military style operation that belonged to another era. Purportedly looking for ‘illegals’ the police had unceremoniously thrown the destitute and their few possessions into the street, had publicly assaulted perfectly innocent people, and then arrested many of them on completely spurious grounds. Bishop Paul and others were later to respond by having the entire action severely criticized by a court of law, and declared completely illegal. But the damage had been done.
The leadership of the police had given a very public indication that they regarded ‘aliens’ as unworthy of fair treatment under the law. Refugees, wherever they were from, were to be treated as if they were less than human, and therefore human rights guarantees under the famed South African Constitution, were not to apply.
Worse, they sent a clear message to the persecuted Zimbabwean community. Do not look to the police for protection. These thoughts returned many times over the next few hours.
By now, radio news reports had started to tell what had happened the previous night, but not before my partner had phoned them and reminded them of their duty to report what was happening on our doorsteps. When approached, the public broadcaster listened carefully and promised to increase reportage, and did by the time of the next hourly bulletin. The commercial station was less receptive, and continued to air a truncated and inaccurate report for three more hours.
As I drove up Main Street in Jeppes Town, events of the previous night were clear to see. Buildings, once occupied by tens of families were still smouldering, a fire engine stood nearby, several police cars with lights flashing had blocked roads leading to the Jeppe Hostel.
Jeppe Hostel, as it is known locally, had been at the centre of other storms in the past. In the tumultuous eighties and nineties it had been the centre for Inkatha Freedom Party activity in the area. ANC and COSATU activists who ventured there took their life in their hands. So called ‘black on black’ violence that resulted in dozens of deaths were centred on the train station in Jeppes Town.
The hostel itself is now chronically overcrowded, squalid and seriously unfit for habitation, it houses thousands of poor working class men and some of their partners. It is surrounded by an urban squatter camp, made up of once busy outlets, workshops and factories that are now lived in by those who cannot or who are unable to live in the hostel. Adjoining factory floor space is divided by makeshift curtains to mark the living spaces of the working and unemployed poor. Sanitation, electricity, clean water, privacy, safety are all luxuries in this community.
As I continued up the road I noticed that despite the police presence, large groups of men carrying ‘cultural weapons’ (various clubs, machetes, bottles) are standing on the corners, watching, waiting. Many others, mostly family groups, are standing in their doorways looking anxiously out.
Further up the road still, I slowed to pass the building where Lesego had witnessed the beatings and from where his pursuers had emerged. A miserable building of perhaps ten electricity deprived flats. A large group of men, some middle aged, others in their early twenties were standing and watching passers by, their weapons visible for all to see. The police it seemed were keeping a safe distance.
Back at home, we listen to the news reports, and start to receive anxious calls from friends. One comrade, Paul, who worked for the trade unions in Zimbabwe for many years is here to receive treatment and staying with his brother in Cleveland, a working class suburb close by. He and his brothers family have sought refuge in the local catholic church. He describes how he witnessed mobs of drunken men from the large Denver Hostel moving from house to house asking the occupants questions in Zulu. If the reply is made in Zulu, then the visitors ask for money and move to the next house. If not, the house is looted, the occupants assaulted, and thrown out onto the street to make a hasty escape as best they can. In between these raids, dozens of people are ‘arrested’ by the same mobs walking in the street, and are interrogated, systematically robbed and assaulted. Calls to the police for protection produce nothing.
‘Are you safe in the church’ I enquire. ‘Well we have nothing’ he replies, ‘and we have heard that our place was raided for a second time an hour ago, and so we don’t expect to find anything left, if and when we return. Right now we are at the mercy of the Salvation Army and the Red Cross. They are bringing food and blankets’.
I think to myself, the Red Cross are saving people in suburban Johannesburg.
Later in the morning I pull into a garage to buy newspapers and see almost fifty men in groups talking on phones and to each other in a very excited manner. I strike up a conversation and discover that these are all displaced Nigerians who live in the Malvern suburb of Johannesburg. They mostly left their homes last night. Some slept at friends, and others in their cars. One had his car burned out when trying to escape, and managed to run into the back of a supermarket and hide. They describe how the night before, hundreds of hostel dwellers chanting ‘Zula Nation’ surged into their neighbourhoods and started breaking into houses and cars, and assaulting those walking the streets.
One older man tells me of a South African neighbour who climbed over the garden fence and provided an escape route through a broken fence into a park. For most of the men, their anxieties centre on the plight of their families who they had left behind. Many had South African partners and their children stayed behind in the hope that they would be able to ‘pass the Zulu test’, make a cash ‘contribution’ and be left in peace.
One middle aged man who works in the local hospital as a radiographers assistant told me that his wife speaks Zulu and his children too. He left them behind last night as the neighbourhood shop was being ransacked and destroyed. In a distressed state he said, ‘I couldn’t take them with me. If we had been caught they would have been treated like foreigners, and who knows what would have happened. This is truly horrible. This would never happen to you people in Nigeria’ he said.
This is certainly an instance of cell phone technology being a life line. I notice that a pump attendant has run an extension cord around the back of the garage to the place where the Nigerians are huddled, and they are busy recharging their phones.
I ask a small group if they have plans to somehow try and organize to protect one another and their communities, to ensure that they do not become victims. A young man of around thirty takes his time to reply. ‘Can you imagine the reaction of the police, the media and the government if we organised a self defense or community safety organization? We would become the target, not those who are attacking us. The police hate us already, the newspapers call us drug barons and pimps, and who do you think ordinary South Africans are going to believe?’
Everyone was silent. A phone rang. The same young man answered, listened carefully and then said, ‘The Nigerian High Commissioner has told us all to stay calm’.
As I return home I pass another group outside a local church. They have the look of North or East Africans, and I pull up and ask if they are OK. ‘The priest is coming to meet us here’ says one. I ask where they have come from, and they point towards Bez Valley, another working class suburb near by. They are Somali’s and I ask if they have experienced any trouble. No, they say, but rumours are making them afraid. Last night there was gun fire close by, and they know they will be targets if the situation worsens. We look like foreigners says one.
Later in the afternoon I receive more calls from Paul and his Zimbabwean family from inside the church haven in Cleveland. They have had news that a neighbour tried to resist a forced entry, and has been murdered. Stabbed repeatedly and left in the front garden of his house.
At four thirty, I travel with a friend to Malvern to help evacuate a Rwandan family who settled in South Africa after the genocide in that country. Small groups of young men are walking up and down the surrounding streets. Police sirens and shouting can be heard nearby. The family gather up a few belongings and are resettled in a local hotel courtesy of the NGO who employ the mother. We take the children, and the parents follow closely behind in their own car. It’s a solemn drive for the three children and our attempts at humour are politely tolerated.
I have a conversation with another Rwandan and he tells me that some people might think that evacuation is an over reaction, but he says, ‘We have learnt to smell danger of this type. The marauding gangs, the inability of the police to keep control, the under-reporting on the radio, the pent up frustrations, the absence of neighbours ready to help or warn. All of these things we have seen before, and now we can smell them’.
At five thirty I make my way back towards Jeppes Town to collect my son from his friends house where he had spent the night. He had heard shooting earlier, and the police sirens and had seen the helicopter circling. They had stayed within the grounds of the closed estate, and played football. On the way home, I fielded dozens of questions from him about what had been happening, and as if on cue he said ‘If you are poor, how can you blame others who are also as poor as you, it doesn’t make sense Dad?’
Later that night, we drove down Jules Street and saw municipal workers starting to clear up the mess left behind from shop burnouts and looting. A row of ten shops was completely destroyed, and small groups of men carrying clubs were still to be seen in full view of the police. We came away from the scene feeling that this was not over. There was more and possibly worse to come.
On the news late last night, the police said they had restored law and order in most parts, and that arrests of suspects had been made, and serious charges would be made against them.
This morning, my Zimbabwean friend called to say that two more people had been killed a short way from the church where he was hiding, and that gunshots and screams had kept everyone awake all night.
The newspapers carry a front page photograph of a man who was set alight by a mob. It reminds me of the Buddhist monks who campaigned against the war in Vietnam.
Meanwhile the politicians and media commentators proffer explanations and condemnations, and it suddenly dawns on me that the only people I have not spoken to or have heard from are the perpetrators. And I wonder, what on earth do they think they are hoping to achieve?
19th May 2008
Three days later, and it seems everyone is aware of the gravity of the crisis. The President of the country has sanctioned the use of the army though they are not yet deployed to keep the peace.
Two days I ago I went to visit my comrade Paul from Zimbabwe, who had been sleeping in Germiston Town Hall for the past two nights. He is a born organiser and has been serving on the committee that manages the food, sanitation, facilities for children, and security.
He takes me on a tour of the Town Hall, a place we have used in the past for May Day rallies. It’s a little run down but still maintains some of its former glory. Now it is one massive bedroom. More than three thousand people are staying here, and most are very afraid. I speak to many others, and hear very similar stories of extreme bullying, violence, theft, and a sense that they have been abandoned to their fate. My friend has been sleeping on a chair because floor space is limited, and its getting cold. Not everyone has a charity blanket, and there is not enough food to feed all. In the absence of proper communications, rumours ripple like Mexican waves across the multitude that are assembled outside, and generate fear.
One large room has been reserved for women, and many are carrying small children and receiving baby food and nappies. It’s clear that many are in a traumatized state, and barely smile when greeted. One can only shudder when thinking about what they have gone through.
I have a brief conversation with a couple of municipal workers inside the building who are members of my union, and am struck by their sympathy towards the refugees despite the increased workload, and near impossible conditions. The toilets have limited capacity, and the kitchen has never had to be put to use to feed such numbers, but union members are working hard, being decent and helpful. One of the shop stewards tells me ‘Everyone here is so grateful for the little that we can do, but I cant stop feeling ashamed that this is happening in my locality. No one deserves to be treated like this’
Paul collects his few possessions and we leave for him where he will stay for the foreseeable, but not before he says a tearful farewell to his committee members, and is reassured that his relatives and others are in relatively safe hands.
This morning the news reports of attacks on communities seem to be more sporadic, although they do appear to be spreading into other Provinces.
Another demonstration has been called for Saturday, by a conglomeration of left groups and community campaigns. I am hoping that there can be a united response, that is inclusive, and non sectarian. I hope the unions will support it despite difficulties that exist between the left groups and the trade union movement.
There is a great deal of speculation about the ‘troubles’ being started by a ‘third force’, some form of underground organization bent on subverting the peace and creating disharmony. It’s mostly speculative. It is clear however that many of the attacks have been coordinated, and especially at a local level. Similar sized groups have been moving from house to house on assigned streets for example, and of course, chanting and demanding the same things. But there are also attacks that appear more opportunistic, and often following a rally or large gathering.
Much of the commentary and analysis from both left and right seems to me to be very simplistic, as if the analysts are not talking to people on the ground, are not asking questions like for example, why in the gatherings of the xenophobic there are so few women? What does this tell you about the men of this country? Why for example, there has been virtually no action against white people? What does this tell you about what is happening in communities that experience grinding poverty? So many questions. So much to be done.
*Steve Faulkner is affiliated with the South African Municipal Workers Union.