Cape Argus, 3 June 2008
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Du Noon, the spark that lit the powder keg of xenophobic attacks across the Western Cape, on Monday reached out to the hundreds of immigrants driven out almost two weeks ago by violent acts and looting. Led by a team of independent negotiators delegated by the premier's office, several interested parties - including ward councillors, taxi leaders and business sector representatives - met on Sunday to discuss plans to welcome immigrants back to the informal settlement. Mediator Monde Cindi said on Monday that an apology was conveyed on behalf of the community and would soon be followed by a ceremony to show the community's regret. "As concerned members from surrounding areas we want stability in the area and we know that the displaced people want to come back. The question lies in how to do that in a way that will work at the root issues and guarantee the foreigners' safety," said Cindi. While many displaced people were milling around the streets of Du Noon on Monday, many of them have yet to start trading - mainly because of safety concerns. "The shop I trade in is rented from a local but he won't give me my stock or allow me to trade," said Ethiopian DW Fanta. Fanta was one of many immigrants who attended the peace and mediation talks on Sunday. He said he was considering proposals made by community leadership to adopt a "give and take" approach to solving the problem. Re-integration plans might incorporate a skills sharing agreement that would see foreigners sharing skills with locals in a bid to empower them. "We believe the re-integration process will work on a give-and-take basis, where people help one another to be their brothers' keepers," said independent mediator Thandi Gweba. "The xenophobic attacks were fuelled by self-empowerment opportunities - the locals partially felt that the foreigners were taking over so we envisage that foreigners will share their business skills with locals," she said. Last week the Cape Argus reported that residents wanted the displaced people to return as the absence of immigrant-run shops was enabling local traders to monopolise businesses, resulting in huge profit margins. Residents were paying R12 for a loaf of brown bread compared with R6.50 previously paid at foreigner-owned shops. Demand for basic commodities is high in a township housing up to 50 000 people, and the next closest place residents can shop is in Table View. A trip there to buy bread or milk would cost R11 in taxi fare. In addition, landlords who rented RDP houses to foreigners have lost their tenants and taxi profits are suffering as their customers have decreased since the xenophobic attacks which erupted in the area on May 22. A resident said last week that most of them were now suffering owing to the actions of the few who had orchestrated the attacks. Although Du Noon was the epicentre for the xenophobic violence, the community has not yet made a public apology as was made in Masiphumelele.