Business Day, 16 May 2008

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The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), which is organising protest action across the country tomorrow, has added xenophobia to its list of concerns. Cosatu said yesterday the escalating violent attacks on foreigners in SA’s townships was such an urgent matter that it had to be added to the issues to be raised at the marches. Cosatu and its tripartite alliance partners, the African National Congress (ANC) and the South African Communist Party (SACP), as well as civil society members such as the Zimbabwe Solidarity Forum in SA , the Swaziland Solidarity Network, South African NGO Coalition, Disabled People of SA , the Treatment Action Campaign and the Anti- Privatisation Forum will be marching. The protests were to focus on the situation in Zimbabwe and the soaring food prices which are hitting the poor particularly hard, and will place further pressure on the government to take stronger action on these issues. The participation of the ANC in the protest action will add to the pressure. Meanwhile, ANC president Jacob Zuma told a graduation ceremony at the University of Zululand yesterday that he was outraged at the manner in which foreigners had been treated in parts of the country. “Xenophobia has no place in a democratic, free country like ours. Our people should avoid taking out frustrations they face because of unemployment or crime on immigrants. “It is Alexandra today and it could be another area tomorrow if we do not deal with this matter adequately. We urge people to leave issues of illegal immigration to the government to sort out through humane legal methods and instruments.” He said South Africans should accept that many immigrants had the right to be in the country, and that many contributed immensely to the social and economic life of SA. Cosatu said yesterday the underlying causes of xenophobia were the intolerable levels of poverty, unemployment and crime, and the shortage of housing in poor communities. Cosatu spokesman Patrick Craven said: “People’s frustration is understandable, but there can be no excuse for placing the blame for these problems on immigrants who have been forced to flee from even worse conditions in other parts of Africa, especially Zimbabwe.” In Parliament, however, the Inkatha Freedom Party caucus blamed poor service delivery for the attacks in Alexandra. The Democratic Alliance said the attacks were caused by the government’s failure to properly control and regulate immigration into SA.