Business Day, 16 May 2008

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The government is confident that it has a plan to end violence in Alexandra by next week, following a meeting yesterday between ministers and local structures in the township. Home Affairs Minister Nosi- viwe Mapisa-Nqakula, speaking at a media conference at Alexandra police station yesterday, said she and other ministers had had a “very informative” meeting with community leaders who believed that they could “stem the flow of violence” by next week. The minister said police intelligence and information from the community suggested that the violence was being fuelled by a criminal element who were using the opportunity to rape and loot. “I am not saying there is not unhappiness over service delivery, but where people have harboured unhappiness about service delivery a criminal element has taken over and manipulated the situation,” she said. The minister said a home attacked on Wednesday belonged to the South African sister of a councillor who had lived in Alexandra all her life . “People knew who she was, it had nothing to do with xenophobia.” Mapisa-Nqakula said unhappiness over conditions or lack of delivery did not justify murdering innocent people. Meanwhile, Deputy Minister of Safety and Security Susan Shabangu took a hard line on criminals, in particular those who shot at police on Wednesday during a demonstration by about 2000 people. “So far the police have not used any force, as the current situation does not allow that, but if it comes to push, the police will use live ammunition to protect themselves and the community,” she said. The plan, to be driven by community structures, includes holding a series of meetings over the next few days in wards in Alexandra to address residents’ concerns and grievances. Mapisa-Nqakula said the plan would also include returning displaced people, both South African and foreign , to their homes. She said the department would not try to find out how many of the displaced people were illegal immigrants. “Even if we were able to find a thousand illegal immigrants we would not deport them — we cannot take advantage of their vulnerability — but if people have been involved in criminal activity, that will be a different matter.” Mapisa-Nqakula said there were discussions in Parliament to look at different approaches to migration, particularly migrants from the South African Development Community (SADC). “We are looking to create a special dispensation for economic migrants from SADC regions, looking at temporary documents or permits.” She denied that Wednesday’s violence in Diepsloot was linked to unrest in Alexandra, saying the situation was being monitored and was believed to be under control. She also denied that two people had been killed in Diepsloot. Yesterday six people were arrested in Diepsloot for public violence, several shacks were set alight and at least four shops were attacked and looted. Alexandra was calm yesterday. The Red Cross said about 300 people had sought refuge at the Alexandra police station on Wednesday night and another 400 were at the Bramley police station.