A Cabinet committee re-activated to address concerns about post-soccer World Cup xenophobic attacks on black foreigners will be meeting again this Tuesday, the police ministry says. The meeting comes as concerns mount of a recurrence of a two-week orgy of violence that left 62 people dead and 150 000 homeless in May 2008.
Police Ministry spokesman Zweli Mnisi says the interministerial committee for xenophobic violence set up by the cabinet early last month (June) and headed by Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa met shortly afterwards and will again meet next week to finalise plans to prevent another pogrom.
The committee includes the ministers of Home Affairs, Social Development, State Security, Basic Education, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Arts and Culture as well as International Relations and Cooperation.
South African Human Rights Commission chairman Lawrence Mushwana meanwhile says his organisation has made recommendations on steps to deal with xenophobia and handed these over to law enforcement authorities. “We have listed the recommendations and we are meeting with the police as part of the recommendations,” said Mushwana.
In another development the Cape Times reported yesterday the South African Army had been deployed to back up police in Du Noon, Cape Town, on Tuesday in a joint anti-crime operation residents said had to do with persistent rumours of an outbreak of xenophobic violence after the World Cup. “At the moment, we cannot tell the public what the operation is about, but we can confirm that the Army has been deployed,” national police spokeswoman Brigadier Sally de Beer said. Du Noon had been the epicentre of xenophobic violence in the Western Cape in 2008.
In a show of force, the army and police went into Du Noon with Casspirs and searched house-to-house, the paper said. Residents said they had been told the show of force was to demonstrate that the authorities would not stand for any xenophobic violence in the area or anywhere else in the country.
The deployment came as the Nelson Mandela Foundation said on Tuesday that it was concerned by the rumours of xenophobic violence. “We cannot blame other people for our troubles. We are not victims of the influx of foreign people into South Africa,” Achmat Dangor, the CE of the foundation said.”We have seen South Africans united around a common support for African teams during the FIFA World Cup; we hope it will lead to greater appreciation by South Africans of our place on this continent and that we will sure greater solidarity with non-nationals,” added the foundation’s Sello Hatang.
Earlier police said two South African shop owners at Bloekombos were arrested on suspicion of instigating attacks on rival Somali shopkeepers in the informal settlement near Kraaifontein, which also bore the brunt of the 2008 xenophobic violence. Police spokesman Captain Andre Traut confirmed that the two men and three other suspects were arrested last week on three charges of attempted murder, two charges of arson and one charge of conspiracy to commit crimes. On Tuesday the Daily Voice reported that there was xenophobic violence in Bloekombos after four men were arrested. The suspects claimed they had been paid by local shop owners to attack the Somalis.
Cape Town mayoral committee member for Safety and Security councillor JP Smith said the provincial government was the lead agency against xenophobic violence and would take care of pre-emptive work in the Western Cape. “The city is ready to react. Attacking other people incurs costs and the city paid R147 million to house, feed and protect dispossessed people in 2008. We had to use rates money to cover those costs,” Smith said.
Fear is also running high in Johannesburg, The Times and Eyewitness News reports.
Earlier this year the Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa released a press statement to voice concerns that “threats are mounting of further mass xenophobic violence once the event is over”. A recent study at Wits University also warned of mass xenophobic attacks after the World Cup, while a Neil Higgs, a TNS Research Surveys researcher, said that poor service delivery could spark attacks. “The xenophobia is also about competition about scarce resources like houses, water, electricity and also potentially jobs,” he said in the Business Day.
The broadsheet added government spokesman Thabo Maseko said the Cabinet committee has been re-established as a “pro-active” attempt to deal with the rumoured xenophobic attacks. “We suspect that these ongoing service protests can lead to some attacks on foreign nationals,” he said. “There have been some unconfirmed reports that attacks might erupt after the World Cup. The IMC is an attempt to deal with the xenophobia that might erupt.”
“The Elders”, a group of 10 prominent global leaders that met in Johannesburg in May also voiced concern about the rumoured attacks. “I think everyone recognises that with having the World Cup in SA there are concerns,” said former Irish President Mary Robinson. “We are more worried after the World Cup, the possibilities of xenophobia… construction jobs fall away and people, especially from Zimbabwe, will be looking for jobs. “We hope it does not happen and I hope more job opportunities come.”
TNS Research Surveys warned in May that current high levels of dissatisfaction with service delivery levels made violent protests a “certainty”, the South African Press Association reported. The survey, conducted among 2000 residents of South Africa’s metropolitan areas in February, found more than half (52%) were unhappy with the service delivery they received from their local authority or municipality. This was a very high figure and one indicating that “violence over a lack of service delivery is a certainty”, the company said in a statement.
“Strike negotiators say that, when 30% or more of a work force are unhappy, there will almost certainly be strike or protest action. With levels of unhappiness over service delivery exceeding half the population, the likelihood of such protest action then becoming violent becomes highly probable,” TNS said. A study conducted in 2007 showed dissatisfaction levels at 27%. That the levels of unhappiness had risen to 52% showed the problem of service delivery was now especially acute, SAPA added.
In addition, 51% said they had been waiting too long for basic services from their local authority or municipality. It was clear that all areas were well above the critical level of 30% unhappiness, with very serious flash-points likely in the East and West Rand and the Vaal Triangle/South Rand in Gauteng as well as in East London. Not surprisingly, blacks, in particular, were the most unhappy with service delivery levels – 54% unhappy and 58% said they had been waiting too long for basic services, SAPA said. Among the unemployed, 59% were unhappy about service delivery, and among those in squatter camps and informal settlements, the unhappiness level rose to 65%.
“Also, not surprisingly, it is the poorest of the poor who are the most unhappy, with as many as 80% of these people expressing unhappiness – a powder keg indeed.” But even the most wealthy were unhappy (49%). This was most likely due to increasing power outages, water problems and billing issues.