News24

Xenophobia exodus continues

2010-07-06 14:17

Cape Town - Foreign nationals fearing renewed outbreaks of xenophobic violence reportedly continued to seek transport out of Cape Town on Tuesday.

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 on Monday, 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.

Can't take action


"Nothing to date has thus far been reported to us that we can action," Solomons-Johannes said.

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.

"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," he said.

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.

Tensions


"The difficulty with this rumour is that it's created such tension in communities that one isolated incident might spread to other communities quickly," Hanekom said.

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.