Cabinet acts on xenophobia concerns


Cabinet has re-established an inter-ministerial committee (IMC) that focusses on xenophobia. Cabinet spokesman Themba Maseko says the move follows “reports of possible attacks on foreign nationals after the World Cup” that starts next week.

A two-week orgy of violence two years ago – in May 2008 – left 62 people dead and thousands homeless. The committee will be headed by Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa and will include 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, Maseko added at a press briefing yesterday after Wednesday’s two-weekly Cabinet meeting.
“The IMC will liaise with civil society structures to ensure that a country-wide approach is adopted to prevent any form of violence against anyone. Government would like to re-iterate that any attacks are totally unacceptable and will not be tolerated,” he said. “The law enforcement agencies will not hesitate to act speedily and decisively against anyone found to incite or participate in violent acts against foreign nationals.”

The Mail & Guardian reports that there have been reports that another wave of violence could occur after the tournament. Earlier this year the Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa released a press statement to voice concerns that “a month from the opening match of the World Cup, 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 adds Maseko said the 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 this last weekend, 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 last week 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 said.

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.