In a bold move to try and understand the deep-seated issue of xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals in black townships across the country, the Quaker Peace Centre hosted a discussion at Isivivana Centre in Khayelitsha, on Saturday March 25.
The poorly attended event was solely aimed at addressing the senseless and brutal attacks on foreign nationals and to find better ways to integrate them in black communities.
The NPO believes that there is not enough being done to prevent the xenophobic attacks from happening again.
The first publicised attacks took place in 2008 and again in 2015.
The organisations said this clearly demonstrates that there are still unresolved issues that needed to be resolved.
Those at the heated discussion spoke about the issue of the
alleged involvement with drugs and perceived stealing of jobs by foreign nationals as some of the main reasons for which they were attacked.
It emerged that poverty was also a contributing factor. They argued that the harsh reality was that South Africans do not regard foreigners as fellow Africans. The attendees said it was sad and unfortunate when an African hates another African. Members from the Khayelitsha Business Forum, (KBF), Khayelitsha Development Forum (KDF), Khayelitsha Safety Forum (KSF) Khayelitsha Religious Forum (KGR), ward councillors and other community stakeholders were among those present at the event. The various organisations vowed to work together to root out any form of discrimination against foreign nationals.
Nombulelo Mentjie, founder of Born Again Enrichment Centre, an NPO, said they need to identify the areas in the province where the attacks happened and engage with residents of those areas.
She agreed that some foreign nationals were drug dealers but not all of them could be painted with the same brush. She noted that some of the so-called foreigners have created jobs for the South Africans and they have boosted the local economy.
“We need to change the negative thinking people have about our fellow brothers. We need to emphasise to our people that South Africa is in Africa and we are all Africans,” she said.
Michael Williams, funding convener at Quaker Peace Centre, said the fundamental role of the organisation is to ensure there is peace among the different communities across the country.
He said the dialogue was aimed at finding the real reasons why xenophobia was still happening and what could be done to prevent it.
He said part of their plan was to link up with existing initiatives in the community to strengthen the fight against the discrimination of foreign nationals.
He said that the reality was some of the foreign nationals had left their countries of birth due to political and economic instability.
He said the constitution clearly states that everyone has the right to be treated equally irrespective of where they come from. “We want people to be agency of change and be peacekeepers. The aim is to eliminate any form of violence. The reality is that many foreigners are still feeling unsafe and haunted by the experiences of the past attacks,” he said.
Ward councillor Danile Khatshwa blamed government for not equipping people with real skills so that they could be employable. He said the government was also failing to support local businesses like spaza shops owned by South Africans. He highlighted that now there were few or no shops at all owned by South Africans.
“There was a generalisation that all foreigners are drug dealers and that is not the case,” he said.
He then suggested that people should make an oath with themselves that they would be the protectors of fellow Africans.