Saturday, May 24, 2008

Zimbabwe News Update: Govt. to Assist in Repatriating Victims of Xenophobia in SA; West Should Examine Crisis

Govt to assist in repatriating SA xenophobia victims

Herald Reporter

GOVERNMENT yesterday said it was working closely with relevant authorities to assist and facilitate the return of victims of South Africa’s xenophobic attacks to Zimbabwe.

In a statement last night, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Government would also assist to repatriate the remains of those who may have died.

The statement comes when about 200 soldiers deployed to quell the violent xenophobic attacks, which have so far claimed 42 lives and displaced about 16 000, yesterday assisted police with morning arrest-and search-operations in central Johannesburg.

The ministry said Government was receiving regular reports and updates from its embassy in Pretoria and the consulate in Johannesburg.

"The staff in these missions have visited the affected areas and met Zimbabweans who are under the protection of the South African government in police stations and community centres.

"They are also working closely with the relevant authorities to assist those in need and to facilitate those who wish to return home. The same applies to the repatriation of the remains of those who may have died."

Government has also engaged the International Organisation for Migration to assist.

The ministry said Government was happy with the co-operation it was getting from the South African government and hoped that a solution would be found soon.

The ministry said Government was concerned that the xenophobic violence was taking place at a time when Sadc was gearing to achieve higher levels of regional integration.

The regional bloc is expected to launch the Sadc Free Trade Area at its next summit to be held in August in South Africa.

"The Government of Zimbabwe urges those responsible for the xenophobic violence to appreciate that we in the Sadc region share a common history, a common culture and common a destiny," the ministry said.

On Thursday 42 people were reported dead as a result of the attacks on foreigners, believed to be mainly from Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi.

The South African army spokesperson last night said the soldiers were on standby for the evening amid uncertainty about whether the situation had been brought under control.

"It is calm now, but this is very sporadic so it can change in another hour or so," a spokesman for the defence forces, General Kwena Mangope, told AFP.

"We are on standby for this evening. It will be determined by the police as and when they need us."

President Thabo Mbeki bowed to pressure to call in the army on Wednesday after a request for support from the police force.

It appeared that the mass outbreak of arson attacks, looting and assaults witnessed around Johannesburg earlier this week had been brought under control yesterday, but pockets of unrest were reported in other areas of the country.

Anti-foreigner incidents were reported for the first time in North West province and the central area of Free State yesterday.

A spokesman for North West police, Brian Dlamini, said 49 people had been arrested on Wednesday night for looting and burning shops belonging to foreigners.

In Free State, police said 22 people had been arrested after a group of people was seen throwing stones at the shops of Pakistanis.

"We are investigating charges of public violence currently but also looking into the possibility of xenophobia," police spokesman Motantsi Makhele told domestic news agency Sapa.

Zimbabweans, Mozambicans and Nigerians have been targeted in the violence, which spread outside of the Johannesburg area for the first time on Tuesday to neighbouring provinces.

The violence, which has done untold damage to South Africa’s reputation as the "Rainbow Nation", is also taking its toll on the country’s economy.

Unions and several mining companies reported yesterday that gold mines around Johannesburg, the country’s economic heartland, had been hit by the unrest, with employees failing to show up for work.

National Union of Mineworkers spokesman Frans Baleni told AFP that one mine on the eastern outskirts of Johannesburg, up to 90 percent of whose workforce is Mozambican, "has not been operating since Monday".

An estimated 3 000 Mozambicans have fled South Africa to return home and Mozambican President Armando Guebuza said yesterday the government was ready to assist its expatriates in returning.

South Africa’s tourism minister has also warned of the impact on visitor numbers and a farming group raised alarm yesterday about the effects of xenophobia on the agricultural sector.

Turning to the reasons for the violence, the vice president of the ruling African National Congress party, Kgalema Motlanthe, laid blame on the poor living conditions in slum areas.

"Limited public amenities and resources are at the core at this," he told a media forum in Johannesburg yesterday.

SA: Why is brother fighting brother?

By Amengeo Amengeo

THE recent outburst of criminal violence against Africans seeking employment has less to do with "xenophobia" as touted by the reactionary Press but more to do with chronic unresolved anger of the black South African masses.

In other words, defenceless people are merely convenient scapegoats for something deeper and more sinister which, unless addressed immediately will drag South Africa and the region into a slippery abyss.

In the closing chapters of the apartheid catastrophe (when the ANC was abandoning its ‘‘humane’’ guerrilla war and was at last prepared to take the lives of its oppressors) a wave of alarm swept through the intelligence echelons of apartheid’s secret supporters (in London, Washington, Tel Aviv, Berlin and Paris) in the West.

These nations had given tacit approval to Pretoria’s brutal suppression of black aspirations for freedom and skilfully used the canard of the ‘‘communist threat’’ to justify their business ties to one of the most reprehensible regimes to ever besmirch the earth.

The Cuban-Angolan victory at Cuito Cuanavale sounded the death knell of the regime. If the region, perhaps the continent, were not to descend in a Gotterdammerung of racial war which the Boers would certainly have lost, something had to be done fast.

The townships were becoming no-go areas. A blood-lust had developed among the Africans, promising a horrific revenge if the regime fell to the people.

The CIA analysed the regime’s internal weakness. Cool heads in the agency pushed for establishing contacts with the ANC (despite the "terrorist" designation) to influence any outcome. Deals had to be made.

Mandela had to freed, but under what circumstances? There is no doubt that, seeing the writing on the wall, Western intelligence decided that the end of apartheid must have a soft landing.

We must remember that although apartheid officially became law in 1948 when the Boer nationalists won elections, racist oppression of the black majority was de rigeur since the first Dutch interlopers landed on the Cape 400 years ago.

Centuries of humiliation, denial of basic human rights and de facto slavery guaranteed that a black popular revolution would make the bloodletting of the French and Haitian Revolutions look like a picnic. In fact, in the township resistance councils, lists were already drawn up for those who would receive justice in peoples’ courts and how to deal with collaborators and spies. If Mandela had died in custody, nothing would quell the people’s rage. Mandela had to be freed, but with conditions. Under no circumstances would a revolutionary situation be allowed to develop. Thus deals were made.

Mandela will probably carry the secrets to the grave but the fact remains, deals were made to abort the people’s just anger.

Bishop Tutu called for forgiveness as did Mandela-forgiving his jailers. Mandela, the charismatic icon called for peace.

Many were perplexed. There would be no toppling of the symbols of repression — the grim statues of white oppressors who had brought so much pain for so long; no Nuremberg trials for the architects of the egregious example of man’s inhumanity to man; now accounting for 400 years of humiliation, for as long as apartheid existed, no black person anywhere in the world was free. Although a stain on the honour of the African people, not a single perpetrator of apartheid answered for his crimes. Yet the rage remained. With no outlet since this was denied in the name of ‘‘forgiveness’’ and ‘‘reconciliation,’’ the rage had to be expressed elsewhere.

Since the ‘‘end’’ of apartheid (and this is moot since whites still control the economy, the courts and the land) South Africa has experienced unparalleled levels of violence, much of it directed inwardly.

The people’s rage like an unstoppable river had to find its way and it fell back on itself. The late African-Martinician revolutionary Franz Fanon warned that a people, denied outlets for their anger will turn this rage inward, teetering on a pre-revolutionary precipice.

The anger and horrific brutality expressed in South African violence and crime are not the acts of mad people, but the acts of people made mad by the denial of justice and closure against those who oppressed them for so long. These people have been placed out of reach by the insane generosity of ‘‘forgiveness’’ and ‘‘reconciliation’’ offered without the consent of the people.

The unfortunate ‘‘immigrants’’ who have every right to be in South Africa, since without their unswerving support and solidarity apartheid could never have been toppled, are convenient scapegoats subjected to ‘‘xenophobia’’ — destined to be the new divisive buzzword — while the government stands aghast, caught off guard by a situation they should have seen coming.

This is a very, very dangerous time not just for South Africa, but the entire Continent.

How can Pan-Africanism succeed if African nations maintain their unrealistic solitudes as ‘‘nations,’’ seeking answers in the West rather than within themselves, nurturing dependencies on Western ‘‘aid,’’ clinging to alien ideas and cultural mores rather than rediscovering and redefining what it means to be African?

How can Mozambicans, Malawians, Somalis and others of the region be called ‘‘foreigners’’ by their fellow Africans while nationalities from Eastern Europe, Lebanon and the descendants of apartheid’s founders claim that they are Africans with more privileges than the indigenous people?

Who are the real foreigners?

Who really takes the jobs?

Who controls the economy?

Who is the real threat?

Just the way historical injustices contributed immensely to Kenya’s post election crisis, the ANC government needs to address this problem swiftly before it becomes a chronic sore.

It is time that African nations thought long term in all their deliberations and addressed issues exhaustively to avoid future skirmishes.

Africa can ill-afford yet another divisive, brutal conflict which pits brother against brother while "well wishers" wait on the sidelines to open new refugee camps.

-Amengeo Amengeo is a specialist in Spanish, Latin American, Caribbean as well as African History. He has also been a journalist, civil servant and graphic artist. This article is reproduced courtesy of

West should address S. Africa xenophobia

EDITOR — I have been closely following events prior, during and after the harmonised elections as well as the present period focusing on xenophobic attacks on black foreigners living in South Africa.

When there were "rumours" of post-election violence in Zimbabwe , the US, Britain and anti-Zimbabwe organisations cried foul, alleging "a humanitarian crisis" had gripped Zimbabwe and threatened Sadc.

Remember these were just rumours perpetrated by anti-Zimbabwe media which were not even in Zimbabwe during the harmonised elections.

Recently, a foreigner was set ablaze and minutes later died on his way to hospital in SA, a woman had to give birth at the police station fearing for her baby’s life and her own. Up to 42 people have died so far and several others have been displaced and there are more problems promising in South African townships.

No statement has been forthcoming from the US State Department, which is always first off the blocks whenever allegations are raised about Zimbabwe.

Even poor James McGee appears to have lost his voice.

If you could use unsubstantiated reports of violence to claim a humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe, isn’t what is happening in South Africa "a humanitarian crisis"? And let’s hear your words if the word "objectivity" is still in your dictionary.

Dr Mwedzi

No comments: