Pretoria News, 14 March 2008

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Criminals have been blamed for some of the vigilante attacks on foreigners in the Tshwane metro area. Addressing a media briefing in Pretoria on Thursday, executive mayor Gwen Ramokgopa said "the fundamental problem" behind the attacks was crime. "There are situations where criminals exploit immigrants, whether they are legal or illegal. Some of the criminals collude with foreigners and when things do not turn out their way, they (the foreigners) cry foul," said Ramokgopa. She said the municipality was concerned about the attacks on foreigners in Itireleng near Laudium and Soshanguve South informal settlements. A number of foreigners had, over the past few weeks, been forced to flee their businesses after locals accused them of terrorising residents in Itireleng and Soshanguve South. The foreigners' businesses and shacks were torched by people who claimed to be angry residents. Ramokgopa - who will deliver her State of the City address on Friday - said she would not deny that there were problems with illegal immigrants in the Tshwane metro. "There are serious problems with illegal immigrants and our city manager (Kiba Kekana) is working with the department of home affairs to resolve them. "The department of foreign affairs has also committed one of their officials to work with the municipality in finding solutions," Ramokgopa said. She said the municipality had recently undertaken a joint operation in Itireleng to check on the status of some residents living in the area. "To this end, we established two units - one which deals with xenophobia and that other one with illegal immigrants," she said. Ramokgopa said there was a need to work closely with the United Nations in dealing with the issue of refugees. "I will outline steps to be taken by the municipality to address the problem in my State of the City address," Ramokgopa said. Other issues which would be highlighted in the address were service delivery, poverty, the proposed refurbishment of the Schubart Park and Kruger Park flats and increases in violence. "There has been an increase in violence, not only at inter-personal level, but also in schools and on immigrants. "We will announce some interventions in this regard," she said. Ramokgopa said the municipality was on track to provide houses for residents and that 6 000 units had been built. It also hoped to formalise all informal settlements in the Tshwane metro. "We are on track to ensure that by December all residents have access to basic water, sanitation and electricity," Ramokgopa said. The municipality would, as part of its preparations for the 2010 World Cup soccer tournament, co-host the international friendly soccer match between South Africa and Paraguay at the Super Stadium in Atteridgeville on March 26. Ramokgopa said that she was happy with the progress so far in refurbishing the Super Stadium. "The stadium is 80 percent complete and we are busy with the construction of the new pavilion on the northern side. "To show that the stadium is ready for major events, we hosted an ANC rally at the venue in January," Ramokgopa said.