To commemorate Human Rights Day and raise awareness about xenophobia, around 80 South Africans and Somalis marched in Khayelitsha Site C at an event organised by the Social Justice Coalition (SJC).
The participants marched down streets, singing and shouting slogans, “Phantsi nge xenophobia! Pantsi! (down with xenophobia).”
SJC activist Malwande Msongelwa, who has been working in the community since 2009, said the organisation was established in 2008 in response to the xenophobic attacks. The SJC is continuing with its mandate by engaging the police every time there is a xenophobic attack, giving protection to the targeted foreigners, and organising awareness programmes.
“The aim is to stop xenophobic attacks and give awareness to the community, discouraging what happened in Johannesburg and at Marikana in Philippi to happen here.”
She said they plan to implement similar activities in other communities, but there was a pressing need to start in Site C since the area has a high crime rate.
A pamphlet with police contact numbers on it was distributed to educate the community to coexist with foreigners, stop looting and vandalising their shops, and to encourage members of the community to phone the police if they came across a foreigner being attacked.
Msongelwa said, “According to South African constitution, foreigners have a right to stay in this country freely. South African citizens should not abuse their rights or discriminate [against] them. Since the inception of this programme, I am receiving positive feedback from the community. The community want foreigners to stay and manage their businesses because they are friendly, they treat customers with respect and sell affordable items. Elderly people are ashamed of their children who get involved in vandalising and looting foreigners’ shops.”
She said that in response to the recommendations made by the Khayelitsha Commission of Inquiry into policing, the SJC together with other bodies have established eight community forums. From these forums, police take up complaints and suggestions based on research conducted by the civil society organisations and on community needs. Civil organisations are helping to build trust between the community and the police.
On 14 March, a forum in Nkanini was attended by the City of Cape Town, the South African National Civic Organization (Sanco), Community Police Forum, Ndifuna Ukwazi, SAPS, area committees and the Department of Community Safety.
One participant, a 54-year-old woman, said, “I am a mother, I also bore children I know the pain of bearing a child. I condemn these xenophobic attacks. Somalis are also human beings. They ran from war and are making an honest living for themselves.”
A 25-year-old Somali said he is happy with the initiative. He believes the kind of support they are getting from South Africans will help curb such crimes in Site C. Addressing other Somalis in their language, he said, “These South Africans who marched with us today are here to support us. We should not be involved in crime let’s live in harmony. If you have a problem with a South African citizen, do not take the law into your hands, engage community leaders. If it’s a customer, tell him or her to go and buy at another shop to avoid the spread of the attacks that spread to Philippi.”
Source : GroundUp