LOCALS NOT KEEN TO WELCOME BACK FOREIGNERS

ANC Daily News Briefing/Sapa, 27 June 2008

PLEASE NOTE: Readers wishing to reproduce and reference this article
should contact the editors of the ANC Daily News Briefing and/or Sapa for permission


SA is still picking up the pieces of the recent of wave of xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals and refugees that left more than 60 dead and thousands displaced. But for Ramaphosa residents, near Germiston, where there were ugly scenes, there has been no change of heart to welcome the displaced people back. Residents feel strongly that they cannot live with the foreign nationals in the township. David Tjetjane, a local community leader, says the government's plan to reintegrate displaced people in the community is not going to work, and the community is preparing to resist it. He says the situation is not conducive for foreigners to return. The government needs to understand that foreign nationals started the attacks, by killing four South Africans, he says. "I want to use this opportunity to tell the government that the attacks in our community were started by those Mozambicans . They violently killed four local people. They consistently commit heinous crimes, they are criminals. We were just protecting ourselves, it was not about xenophobia like it was in other areas," Tjetjane says. He says foreign nationals show no respect for the country's laws and many of them "unlawfully" own houses meant for poor locals. In addition, Tjetjane says, "the community is now afraid of revenge attacks if these people are brought back to live with us". It is government policy to allocate low-cost houses to foreigners with permanent residence permits. The allocation of "RDP houses" to foreigners has been identified as one of the causes of xenophobic violence that took place in Gauteng and other parts of SA last month. A foreign national qualifies for permanent residence after five years of residing in SA legally, or if they have a South African spouse and that marriage does not lapse within three years of being granted the permit. Tjetjane singles out Ananias "Houdini" Mathe -- who has multiple convictions for robbery and rape -- from Mozambique as someone who terrorised the Ramaphosa community before his arrest. "This shows how dangerous these people can be. They are in SA to disrupt and corrupt our hard-fought democracy." He says Mathe's shack was demolished during the recent attacks. "We had a community meeting last week and it was resolved that we should not accept them back. If government pushes us, we will challenge them too, not violently but through legal channels," he says. Tjetjane blames the government for not taking the Ramaphosa residents' grievances seriously and for not attending their meetings. Most of his sentiments are supported by Mpho Makana and Jabu Modise, both vegetable hawkers. They say they are threatened by the move to return foreign nationals to their community. "If they come back, we will have to run away from our own community because we are scared they would kill us (in) revenge. No! They must go back to their countries," Modise says. The Gauteng provincial government is going ahead with its plan to reintegrate displaced people, most of whom are being accommodated at various temporary shelters, which were erected to last for two months. Government spokesman Thabo Masebe says people who have been displaced, locals or foreign nationals, are still part of their respective communities. He says it is not for the government to decide whether those people should go back to their communities, but the government will create a "conducive environment" for them to do so. "No one has a right to stop anybody from residing in a place they like, irrespective of nationality," Masebe says. "If people think people are committing crime, let them come out and help our police to arrest suspects." On the issue of the shelters' two-month time frame, Masebe says local government and different community structures are busy "persuading" people to welcome those affected by the attacks. He says that the temporary shelters will be dismantled after two months "because the land on which they are erected is not meant for residential purposes". "The challenge that we will be facing as government is to find alternative accommodation for people whose shacks were destroyed," Masebe says. The government is aware that there are service delivery problems in various communities, especially in areas where the attacks were prominent. Meanwhile, the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) says it is not going to be easy for the government to reintegrate displaced people. Adrian Hadland, director of the democracy and governance research programme at the HSRC, says people in the affected areas are still angry. There is a great deal of unhappiness and the government needs to take quite a big step to address that." The HSRC has presented a report to the cabinet about the violence, and Hadland says there is "political determination to address the problem".