Xenophobia fear exodus continues

2010-07-06 13:36

Foreign nationals fearing renewed outbreaks of xenophobic violence

reportedly continued to seek transport out of Cape Town today.

Employees of the Engen Winelands filling station at Kraaifontein on

the N1 said there were still numbers of Zimbabweans and other nationals at the

facility looking for lifts.

About 200 foreigners were camped out there yesterday, some with

items of furniture, in the hope of securing lifts with truckers.

Cape Town’s disaster management said it was playing no role in

dealing with the exodus.

Spokesperson Wilfred Solomons-Johannes said civil society groups

had been told that if lives were in danger, they should report this to the

police or the provincial disaster management centre.

He said: “Nothing to date has thus far been reported to us that we

can action.”

Braam Hanekom, spokesperson for refugee rights organisation Passop,

said it was “really, really sad” that foreign nationals could feel so

unprotected, and that they were prepared to displace themselves on the basis of

rumours.

However, it also had to be understood that rumours could create a

very hostile environment for foreigners. Police in the Western Cape had been

very quick to respond, he said, and had re-established the safety forum set up

following the outbreak of xenophobic violence in 2008.

Hanekom said: “They’ve given us a list of every police station

commander that we can contact 24 hours a day if there’s anything of a xenophobic

nature.”

Passop recognised the efforts being made by politicians at a

national and provincial level.

However, it was important to get municipal councillors, some of

whom had in the past instigated violence against foreigners, to also take a

stand against xenophobia.

Hanekom said: “The difficulty with this rumour is that it’s created

such tension in communities that one isolated incident might spread to other

communities quickly.”

He said that in addition to the foreigners leaving Cape Town there

had been a lot of intra-city displacement, with people moving away from

townships to the suburbs or to industrial areas.

“It’s really unpleasant because nothing has happened, and yet we’ve

got displacement,” he said.

A lot of Somali traders in the townships were keeping stock at very

low levels, or not restocking, because of fears of looting.

Western Cape police spokesperson Colonel Billy Jones said there was

“no policing” involved because the xenophobia fears were currently based only on

rumours.

However, provincial commission Mzwandile Petros had reconvened the

safety forum, and had requested civil society organisations to help calm

people’s fears.

 

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