29 April 2015
Peace and calm have returned to communities wracked by xenophobic violence in recent weeks, according to Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe, who sought to reassure the country and the world following the attacks on foreign nationals.
“We want to reassure those who have plans to travel to South Africa that our government is in charge. The violence has stopped. We are now working hard to ensure that nobody within the borders of our country is victimised based on their country of origin,” Radebe said.
He was speaking at the first Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) briefing on migration held in Pretoria on 28 April. The IMC was appointed by President Jacob Zuma to deal with the underlying causes of tension between communities and foreign nationals. The briefing was called after the president and various ministers consulted various organisations and sectors representing both South Africans and foreign nationals in the country following the earlier this month.
Radebe said the government continued to actively support displaced foreign nationals in the country through provision of food, shelter and other necessities. The Department of Social Development was leading the intervention and psychosocial support had been provided to 812 individuals on site at the shelters.
“We encourage those who require counselling services to call 0800 428 428. The trauma counselling call centre is operational 24 hours a day.
“We have so far provided 2 000 mattresses, food, blankets, dignity packs, baby formula and clothing items to displaced persons at the various shelters,” said Radebe, who is the chairperson of the IMC.
The South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) had set up a help desk to manage any enquiries and complaints from displaced persons at shelters. The social services department had also done an assessment at the temporary shelters in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng to establish the immediate needs of women and children.
“Pregnant women and people with disabilities have been transferred to secure shelters. Retired social workers were also deployed to the temporary shelters to strengthen the psychosocial services.”
Reintegration of displaced people
Radebe said reports that some foreign nationals had begun to return to their communities were encouraging. “As the situation continues to stabilise, we call on foreign nationals who are still in shelters to work with the Department of Co- operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) and Community Safety to ensure a smooth reintegration process.”
The IMC urged communities to open their arms to returning foreign nationals and to assist in their reintegration. Radebe said the return of displaced persons to their communities resulted in the official closure of Elsburg Shelter on 23 April.
“Those who were not yet ready to be reintegrated have been accommodated at the Primrose Shelter.”
The Department of Health closely monitored, co-ordinated and delivered health and medical services to foreign nationals in any area needed as well as at the temporary shelters. Services available included emergency medical services, primary health care services, communicable diseases control, environmental health services, health promotion, forensic pathology services and mental health services.
Documentation of foreigners
Radebe said foreign nationals who were in the country illegally were either detained for prosecution or deportation by the Department of Home Affairs, and the department was helping displaced people to verify their status. “In cases where the displaced persons have no documentation or they are in the country illegally, the department still captures their details. Their information and fingerprints are captured in order to provide documentation to facilitate their repatriation.”
He said the Department of Home Affairs was working closely with foreign missions in South Africa to ensure the smooth repatriation of those wanted to return voluntarily to their home countries.
“We have thus far repatriated a total of 1 997 undocumented migrants from both KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng temporary shelters, 911 to Malawi, 316 to Mozambique, 753 to Zimbabwe, and 17 to Tanzania.”
He said about 1 507 documented people were awaiting repatriation and the government would continue to engage with their missions to ensure a smooth process.
A lasting solution
The government was committed to finding a lasting solution to the problem to prevent the shameful attacks from happening again, said Radebe.
“We believe that issues of migration can only be resolved by taking a holistic approach that deals with all issues highlighted by communities. This includes identifying and resolving challenges highlighted by local traders.”
The Ministry of Small Business Development had also been tasked with identifying the issues that were relevant to small business.
Despite the events of the past weeks, Africans from other countries still considered South Africa a safe place to visit, Radebe said, adding that in March, 10 548 people from Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zimbabwe visited South Africa. The republic had welcomed 13 533 people from the same countries from the beginning of April to date.
“We are heartened that our brothers and sisters on the continent still consider our country a multicultural society that welcomes and promotes interaction among people of different backgrounds.”