Its now a month since South Africans went on the rampage and starting attacking and killing foreigners. If you had to judge by the media or the accounts of municipality, Durban was largely unaffected and this have been well under control.
The reality is a bit more grim. At first about 2500 people fled to churches and police stations. Within a week of the violence starting, most churches that had taken in refugees closed their doors, unable to cope with any more residents. The police stations did the same, but conditions there were mostly even worse, and they soon began to force the refugees to leave.
The municipality basically did nothing, except issue self serving and misleading press statements assuring the press and public that everything was fine, while leaving volunteers and NGOs to do all the actual work.
Mozambique and Malawi sent busses to fetch refugees and take them home. The Provincial government, whose responsibility it actually was, said they were organising sites for the refugees to move to. A month later, they still don’t exit. Now people have been forced to leave nearly all of the police stations, and this week some of the churches, after doing everything they could, turned their refugees out on the street. The Red Cross, who had been supplying food to sites, was forced to turn their attention to flood victims on the South Coast
So the current situation is that there are about 600 people in shelters, mostly not because they chose to reintegrate themselves into their communities, but because they were forced out of shelters. Xenophobic harassment continues. We hear reports ranging from Congelese children being thrown off their buses to school, to Zimbabweans in hiding being threatened with firearms. But the press is no longer interested and the Province in wilfully neglecting its legal responsibilities. One can only wonder if it because at the end of the day they in fact support the xenophobic sentiments. Unless of course it is just simple incompetence.
This week we managed to get supplies to sites and the Red Cross from the money raised at the gigs at the BAT Centre (thanks to Ben Murrel for this wonderful initiative). Good timing, as supplies had run out almost everywhere.
At this point several things need to happen
i) the failure of Province to take responsibility need to be documented and contested
ii) the continuing xenophobic harassment needs to be documented, as does the police failure to support victims and intervene effectively
iii) the issue needs to be kept in the press
iv) volunteers are need to visit the sites and document the refugees stories
v) ongoing anti-xenophobia campaigns need to be developed (see meeting below)
At this stage I have accumulated a massive work backlog and am no longer able to devote much attention to this issue, so I encourage others to take it forward…
Thanks for all you amazing participation
increase the peace