Wednesday, May 21, 2008

South African News Bulletin: Xenophobic Violence Slammed by Leaders

Mbeki slams xenophobia

Tue, 20 May 2008 10:36

President Thabo Mbeki vowed on Monday that police would get "to the root of the anarchy" in the Johannesburg area that has seen 22 killed in a wave of violence directed at immigrants.

"Citizens from other countries on the African continent and beyond are as human as we are and deserve to be treated with respect and dignity," the president said in a statement released late on Monday.

Mbeki called upon those behind the "shameful and criminal acts" to stop.

"The law-enforcement agencies must and will respond with the requisite measures against anyone found to be involved in these attacks," he said.

"Already, more than 200 alleged perpetrators have been arrested ... and I am confident that the police will soon make significant breakthroughs in getting to the root of this anarchy," he added.

Mbeki also thanked the public, police and community members who had "lent a helping hand to the victims by, amongst others, offering shelter, clothes and food."

Since the beginning of last week, mobs in poor townships around South Africa's economic capital have killed and beaten up immigrants, with Zimbabweans and other Africans reporting purges by armed locals looking for foreigners.


20 May 2008

ANC President, Mr Jacob Zuma, is currently in London, where he is attending a Graduation Ceremony of his daughter, Msholozi Zuma.

Prior to his departure, Mr Zuma addressed a meeting in Mamelodi, Pretoria, where he sent a clear message on the issue of xenophobia:

"There is no room for xenophobia in South Africa. The violence perpetrated against foreign nationals is nothing but thuggery and criminality. The police must deal with this matter speedily to identify and arrest the perpetrators."

The ANC President will return on Friday 23 May 2008, where he will attend the National Executive Committee meeting that ends on Sunday 25 May 2008. Mr Zuma is expected to have a short meeting with French President Sarkozy on Thursday 22 May 2008.

ANC General Secretary Mr Gwede Mantashe visited Tembisa this morning to acquaint himself with the conditions faced by the foreign nationals, following attacks by armed gangs. Leadership from the ANC Gauteng Province and members of the National Executive Committee have been deployed to Reiger Park on the East Rand.

Issued by African National Congress
Chief Albert Luthuli House
54 Sauer Street

Xenophobia hits Boksburg

Tue, 20 May 2008 10:38

One person died and two were critically injured in fresh xenophobic attacks in the Joe Slovo informal settlement in Boksburg on Tuesday, the Ekurhuleni metro police said.

Spokesperson Zweli Dlamini said the violence began on Monday night when foreigners were kicked out of their shacks and attacked.

The shacks were then set alight.

"Hundreds of foreigners are now housed at the local community centre. The number is rapidly escalating and we might have to look for another shelter."

They have been provided with food, blankets, healthcare and security.

Dlamini said another area hit by attacks was the Gugulethu Everest informal settlement in Springs.

"People were assaulted there — yet it was not as bad as the other areas. They ran away to the Springs police station."

Police were now monitoring the situation in both areas.

Hiring foreigners = death

Tue, 20 May 2008 10:40

An Actonville businessman has been killed after being accused of hiring foreign workers, the Sowetan reported on Tuesday.

The man, the owner of a construction company in Benoni, had his house set ablaze by a mob who accused him of not hiring local people.

He was killed in the early hours of Monday.

Actonville Police Constable Godin Nyathi said the man died inside his burning house.

He said the group that attacked the man came from the local hostel and from the Emlotheni and Emandleni informal settlements.

Cops to call in army?

SA Human Rights Commission chairperson Jody Kollapen on Monday warned that police may be "stretched" in dealing with xenophobic attacks in Gauteng, which have left 22 people dead and up to 10 000 seeking refuge in shelters.

Kollapen, speaking in Durban at a pre-launch event of the Durban Press Club at the International Convention Centre, said the government might have to seriously consider bringing in the army.

"My understanding is that the police are stretched," he said, but warned that "calling in the army has all kinds of implications".

Without some kind of resolution of the conflict, South Africans could take scant comfort from the images being presented in the media.

"We need to be careful. These things spread so easily to other communities."

Kollapen expressed concern that while police focused resources on the affected communities, those that had as of yet not been affected could find themselves without protection.

Asked if the attacks were being orchestrated, he said that he was not aware that there was intelligence pointing to that fact.

He believed the attacks were more "copy cat" in nature and had been brought about because "the level of resentment towards foreigners is quite high".

Kollapen said that South Africans viewed that which came from outside the continent in a positive light, while Africa was viewed in a negative light.

"You haven't seen any attacks on Bulgarians, have you?"

He questioned the role of the media prior to the events that brought Gauteng into the international spotlight.

"By and large the media has portrayed immigration in a negative light," he said, citing various headlines.

"What effect does this have on the psyche?" he asked.

He was of the opinion that the media had not analysed the "social context" in which the attacks had taken place.

The media "must take a hard look at xenophobia". It should consider the role it had played leading up to the attacks.

Kollapen added that he did not believe the creation of a media tribunal, as was recommended by the ANC's Polokwane congress last year, would address concerns about the media.

He said he was in favour of the retaining the current system of a Press Ombudsman, but with expanded powers.

At the moment the Ombudsman, Joe Thloloe, could only react to complaints.

"It should have powers that make it more proactive," Kollapen said.

2010 safe from xenophobia

Tue, 20 May 2008 07:20

The international football fraternity understands that the xenophobic attacks in South Africa are as a result of the conduct of some "disgruntled" individuals, the 2010 Local Organising Committee (LOC) said on Monday.

Chief executive Danny Jordaan said the attacks would not deter people from coming to the world cup as they understood the context in which the attacks were happening.

"Most people understand that the attacks arise from the conduct of disgruntled people, many people around the world condemn this behaviour," he said.

Jordaan said that it was evident to the international community that the attacks were not nationally endorsed.

"The South African leaders have condemned the attacks and the whole world will see that South Africa does not endorse this behaviour," Jordaan said.

Jordaan said the LOC condemned the attacks "unreservedly".

Asked for FIFA comment, 2010 FIFA media delegate Emmanuel Maradas said he did not have a mandate to talk on behalf of FIFA, nor on behalf of FIFA President Sepp Blatter.

He referred enquiries to the FIFA communications division in Zurich, Switzerland, but attempts to get comment on Monday were not successful.


Xenophobia violence spirals

"We will burn the Shangaans if they don't go back," were the chilling words of a 25-year-old man arrested for public violence in Ramaphosa on the East Rand on Monday as police deployed specialists to stop the xenophobic attacks that have left at least 22 people dead in the last week.

"We will fight for this country. We will keep on going, they can't stop us," said the man, speaking to Sapa reporters through the bars of holding cell at the Reiger Park police station.

By Monday morning 217 people have been arrested for the attacks, which police director Govindsamy Mariemuthoo attributed to criminality.

He said this could be seen by the types of crimes being committed: rape, robbery and housebreaking among them.

However, the man, who cannot be identified until he appears in court, said: "We just want them to give up and leave us alone in our country. That will be enough.

"We don't want to fight, but we will burn the Shangaans if they don't go back." He was referring to the Tsonga-speaking group of people, mostly hailing from Limpopo and Mozambique.

Taking jobs, wives

He said he was proud of destroying a few shacks in the area.

"I will be proud to meet the man who started this," he said.

The man, who is unemployed, said: "Foreigners are taking our jobs and our wives," and blamed government for letting them into South Africa.

"A lot them don't have a passport but I am the one in jail," he said, pointing at the group of adults and children who sat among piles of suitcases and furniture outside the police station.

He said his "brother" was arrested for burning foreigners in Ramaphosa township.

Also speaking from his cell, this man claimed foreigners were the cause of the crime situation in Africa.

"No more. They must go. The Shangaans must go."

Earlier, police recovered the hacked body parts of a Malawian national on a sandy road in Ramaphosa township and, near Primrose, one person with Mozambican identify papers in his pocket was found dead and two other Mozambicans were seriously beaten.

Shacks targetted

In Zamimpilo, outside Riverlea on the West Rand, at least 50 shacks were burned and foreign nationals in the area taken to safety in a community centre.

In Kya Sands, an industrial area close to informal settlements, groups of people began throwing stones at each other after a community meeting, but the situation was brought under control, said spokesperson Superintendent Lungelo Dlamini.

In the Jerusalem informal settlement, near Boksburg, police came under fire as they tried to stop a group of about 500 people from looting shops there.

As evening approached in Reiger Park, local residents served tea and coffee to people seeking refuge and offered them accommodation for the night in their homes.

The engines of bakkies loaded with furniture belonging to people of Zimbabwean and Mozambican origin idled outside, preparing to leave the area.

Entire families camped outside - women with babies on their backs, and young children who had been forced to skip school.

The Red Cross and the St Vincent's Anglican church next door helped provide shelter and aid.

Thousands seeking shelter

At least 10 000 foreigners are taking shelter at community centres on the East Rand, said Ekurhuleni Metro spokesman Zweli Dlamini.

"The figures are escalating as people run for their dear lives," said Dlamini.

Ambulances are "driving up and down," he said, and clinics are on alert to deal with violence, as well as the medical needs of the displaced.

A joint operations centre has been set up in Bedfordview to co-ordinate humanitarian needs.

Responding to the Democratic Alliance's criticism that the government's disaster response has been slow and basic requirements like toilets were not adequate, Dlamini said they would order more toilets and other necessities.

A consortium of NGOs also criticised government's response, saying it was inadequate and the situation needed to be treated as a state of emergency.

The Treatment Action Campaign, saying that antiretroviral programmes should not be disrupted, "reluctantly" joined the call for the army to intervene.

A statement from acting National Police Commissioner Tim Williams' office said that after a meeting of top police officials on Monday, it was decided to deploy additional members with "experience and training in reacting to medium to high risk situations" in Gauteng.

Willliams also thanked the police who had been working to try to control the situation under "extremely stressful conditions" and called on community leaders to help by talking within the communities they serve.

Mbeki concerned

President Thabo Mbeki's spokesperson Mukhoni Ratshitanga said the president was "very concerned" by developments and reiterated a call for the violence to stop.

"We are taking these things very seriously," he said.

Meanwhile, Rose Molape, a resident and a South African citizen, expressed anger over what had happened to her Zimbabwean neighbours in Ramaphosa, where she has lived for the last 13 years.

"They were nice people and they had to leave. They have been living here for so long and now all of a sudden things are happening," said Molape.

She said the Zimbabwean family's home was burnt down after they left.

"We as Africans need to help each other, we can't do this," she said.

Tutu urges end to violence

"Please, please stop." This was the message on Monday from Nobel peace laureate and struggle icon Desmond Tutu in the wake of the outburst of xenophobic violence of the past few days.

"Please stop. Please stop the violence now," the churchman said in an impassioned statement.

"This is not how we behave. These are our sisters and brothers. Please, please stop."

Tutu, who once intervened in the apartheid years to prevent a mob necklacing a man, said that when South Africans were fighting against apartheid they had been supported by people around the world and particularly in Africa.

Although they were poor, other Africans welcomed South Africans as refugees, and allowed liberation movements to have bases in their territory even if it meant those countries were going to be attacked by the South African Defence force.

"We can't repay them by killing their children. We can't disgrace our struggle by these acts of violence," he said.

"It is as if we were back in the days of the necklace.

"The world is shocked and is going to laugh at us and mock us.

"We are disgracing our struggle heroes. Our children will condemn us in the future."

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