TERRIFIED FOREIGNERS FLEE FROM ATTACKS

Cape Times, 23 May 2008

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Mozambique has declared an emergency as thousands of its citizens fleeing the xenophobic attacks in South Africa stream back into their home country. The decision was taken at an emergency meeting of its cabinet called to discuss the violence in South Africa, Foreign Minister Oldemiro Baloi said yesterday. So far over 10 000 Mozambicans have arrived at the Ressano Garcia border crossing. Most of them are destitute. They lost all their possessions and in many cases could only watch helplessly as mobs burnt down their homes. The exodus is likely to worsen. Baloi said thousands of Mozambicans were huddled in temporary SA centres awaiting transport. He said the government intends to provide immediate support, but must then deal with the long-term consequences. For once the crisis has died down, some will wish to go back to South Africa, while others will need help in resettling permanently in Mozambique. Baloi stressed that Mozambique's relations with South Africa remain good. "What is important for us is to face the question calmly to avoid any acts of retaliation, which could have serious consequences," he said. Contacts were continuing between the two governments, and Baloi thought that the decision by President Thabo Mbeki to call in the army showed that there was the political will to end the violence. But others here are asking what has happened to basic solidarity, decency and common gratitude, pointing to the sacrifices made by Mozambique when it supported the struggle against apartheid. An editorial in the independent newssheet "Mediafax" yesterday asks "Why are those prominent South African figures who enjoyed the protection of the Mozambican people, and who are now leaders or businessmen, not raising their voices to protect Mozambicans and stop the acts of xenophobia? "Where is the ANC Youth League or the demobilised troops of Umkonto weSizwe who benefited so much from Mozambican support?" The SA government, the paper declared, "is not doing what it should do to end the massacres of Mozambicans and other foreigners". DRD Gold's ERPM operation in Primrose on the East Rand said it had experienced production setbacks due to the violent attacks on foreigners, who make up 38% of the workforce. Spokesperson James Duncan said fewer foreigners had been reporting for work since Monday and the mine was in a "loss-making situation". He said 14% were absent from work on Monday and 60% on Wednesday though many started to return to duty yesterday. National Intelligence Agency (NIA) director-general Manala Manzini yesterday also claimed a third force was behind the wave of violent attacks on foreigners, saying it was part of a plan to destabilise the country ahead of next year's election. Manzini questioned whether the attacks should be termed "xenophobia" and pointed out that South Africans, too, had fallen victim to the attacks. Speaking at the 5th conference of the Committee of Intelligence and Security of Africa (CISSA) in Cape Town, Manzini said there were people inside and outside South Africa who wanted the country's democratic order to fail. "We believe that as SA prepares for another national election early next year the so-called black-on-black violence that we witnessed prior to our first election in 1994 has deliberately been unleashed and orchestrated against our people," he told CISSA delegates. "There are forces in this country and outside who continue to refuse to accept that that we are capable as a people to rule and govern ourselves," added Manzini. He said these anti-democratic elements wanted to reverse the gains of the last 14 years. These elements - Manzini did not name them - were refusing to accept that South Africa was in the hands of black people who were fighting against poverty and strengthening democracy. Earlier, Intelligence Minister Ronnie Kasrils said, "I wish to assure you all that our government and security services are sparing no effort in dealing with the criminal gangs responsible, seeking to expose the elements behind the mayhem." The minister said criminal gangs had taken advantage of the situation. The violence which started in Alexandra, north of Johannesburg almost two weeks ago, has since spread to other provinces. More than 40 people have died, scores have been injured and thousands displaced. The ANC deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe, yesterday criticised the country's security forces for their slow response to the xenophobic violence. Motlanthe, a former resident of Alexandra township where the current wave of violence broke out, said police should have cordoned off the affected area and rounded up trouble-makers within 12 hours of the first attacks. "What is regrettable about all this is the response in terms of law enforcement units (which) was delayed " he told the International Media Forum (IMF) in Johannesburg yesterday. Motlanthe said the police had failed to adequately protect the fleeing refugees. "The delay encouraged people in a similar environment to wage similar attacks against these people who come from our sister countries on the continent," he said. Motlanthe said the violence was caused by unemployed locals who felt intimidated and jealous of the "educated" Zimbabweans and innovative Mozambicans who managed to "eke out a living" under difficult circumstances in South Africa. "Therefore they elicit envy from our own brothers and sisters who in particular have not had the opportunity to acquire a good education and skills," he said. Motlanthe said that while a concerted effort should be made to train more people, urbanised South Africans tended to baulk at jobs that did not pay enough for them to "buy a bed", leaving the opportunity open for foreigners to take advantage of. Democratic Alliance parliamentary leader Sandra Botha told the same forum that xenophobic violence, the power crisis, and criminal charges facing both police chief Jackie Selebi and ANC president Jacob Zuma were denting the country's image. "It was hammering the rand and South Africans' confidence," she said. She said the government and the ANC must improve their management of dealing with negative publicity, and not simply bury their heads in the sand.