Issued by the Secretariat of Safety and Security, 3 July 2008
Today's event seeks, among other things, to give voice and strength to the millions of our peace loving people across our country for them to reiterate former president Nelson Mandela's clear and unambiguous statement when he said "Our pledge is Never and never again shall the laws of our land rend our people apart or legalise their oppression and repression. Together, we shall march, hand in hand, to a brighter future."
Tat'uMadiba made those comments in his speech, at the Constitutional Assembly, Cape Town, on May 8, 1966, on the occasion of the adoption of the new South African Constitution.
I would like, at this stage programme director, to recall some elements of the founding provisions of our Constitution where our country commits to the values of human dignity, equality, human rights and freedoms, non racism and non sexism and the rule of law, among others.
These questions are further elaborated in the Bill of Rights, where, among others, freedom and security of the person is explained as freedom from all forms of violence "from either public or private sources".
The values we espouse as a nation are values that cover all human beings in our country and empower us to argue on all platforms, on the Continent of Africa and further afield, for thoroughgoing democracy for all the peoples across the globe.
This event, therefore, must encourage all of us, whoever we are and wherever we live to say "Never again" and "Not in our name". The overwhelming majority of our people have already indicated, in words and deeds, that they abhor backward tendencies like racism, tribalism, regionalism, sexism, xenophobia and related chauvinisms.
That is why they helped to defeat apartheid. It was in the character of our democratic masses, therefore, to dissociate themselves from every incident where some people, South African citizens and foreign nationals, were attacked and rendered homeless. They did not, and could not have supported the razing of people’s homes and the small spaza shops owned by some foreign nationals.
Our people dissociated themselves from the displacement from our various communities of more than 40 000 South African citizens and foreign nationals. The displacement started from May 11 and by the end of that month, 43 288 people had been affected.
The biggest numbers of affected people were in the Western Cape with just over 20 000 displaces, and Gauteng where 19 453 people were chased out of their homes. The other province with a large number of victims was Mpumalanga, with 1 522 displaced people.
The figures we give relate to people who sought refuge in places where they then were accounted for and duly registered. There are others who fled from South Africa, whose number we will not be able easily to determine
The displaced people were put in temporary shelters, after they themselves had sought refuge at police stations, community and church halls. There are approximately 9 000 people who are still in the temporary shelters. The biggest number of people is in the Western Cape where about 5 175 people are accommodated and in Gauteng, where there are approximately 3 000.
South Africans, from all walks of life, felt scandalised when they learnt subsequently that the violence, ostensibly against foreign nationals, caused the death of 62 people. Most of the murders happened in Gauteng, where 53 people lost their lives. Six people died in the Western Cape and two each were killed in KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga.
Criminals exploited the genuine suffering of our people, arising from depressing socio-economic circumstances, to commit mayhem, murder and robbery. The police arrested 1 433 such criminals, some of who are still in custody. They will face various charges of murder, attempted murder, serious and violent crime, arson and robbery.
Among those killed as a consequence of the violence were 21 South Africans, 10 Mozambicans, five Zimbabweans and one Somali. But, there are 25 bodies at a number of mortuaries, whose nationality cannot be determined at this stage. Their fingerprints are not on our database, which means that their presence in South Africa was not documented. No one has come forward to identify the bodies and no one has reported missing kith or kin.
There are juveniles who participated in the various actions that the police are investigating. Some of them were arrested and released into the custody of their parents to appear on the dates their cases will come up.
I would like, as part of my concluding remarks, to convey a sense of great appreciation from government to all those who responded positively to the cry for help from the affected people and provided all manner of services, including food, clothing and blankets.
The religious sector was very prominent in rendering humanitarian assistance to the displaced people. It is difficult to count all the churches and parishes that came forth to help but, I would like to rise, for special mention, the Jewish Board of Deputies, the South African Council of Churches, the Catholic Bishops Conference, the Muslim Judicial Council, and the Gauteng and KZN regions of the Jamiatul-Ulama, also known as the Muslim Theological Council.
We not only received food and clothes from the religious sector, they also gave us advice as government on how to deal with some of the problems we faced as a country during that trying time.
We also received support from the various United Nations agencies, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and Oxfam, the International Red Cross and the International Organisation for Migration which works closely with the United Nations (UN) and Doctors Without Borders, who, with other independent and government medical professionals, helped to deliver the requisite medical services to the displaced people.
The representatives in South Africa of a number of countries, whether their nationals were affected or not, supported us in a magnificent show of international solidarity that we will cherish for a long time to come. Your advice, Your Excellencies, was highly valued.
The business sector also made some significant contributions to help lessen the difficulties the displaced people were faced with. We are grateful for such assistance and support.
I want, also, to convey the deepest appreciation to our people across the board, who supported us in various ways. A special word of appreciation, of course, must go to those who, right at the outset, appealed to those who had been displaced to come back home, under the protection of the communities.
That appeal became a campaign that has seen many displacees responding positively. That is part of the reason there are fewer people in the temporary shelters at this time than the case was in the beginning. The reintegration project, initiated by the various communities themselves, showed the real face of South Africa, brought to the fore the democratic masses who believe in human dignity for all.
The declaration, on May 24, by the community of Masiphumelele, in the Western Cape, better explains the resolve of our people "Never and never again" to allow for any chauvinism that will lead to the "oppression and repression" of any person.
Their stand talks to the clause in the Bill of Rights that says "Everyone has inherent dignity and the right to have their dignity respected and protected." The Bill of Rights means everyone, South African citizen or foreign national.
The declaration of the Masiphumelele said, among other things
"In order to provide security to our fellow Africans against the thugs (who attacked them), police must be more visible. We should also provide security as community members and any threat against our fellow Africans is a threat against us."
The police will do their duty and will provide security for all in our communities; security against all forms of crime, working in partnership with the people in those communities on the basis of community policing.
We have a meeting later today with the community policing forums from all over the country, where we will discuss further improvements to policing in South Africa where all stakeholders will be allocated responsibilities as part and parcel of the mobilisation of our nation against crime and criminality, as a measure to protect our democracy.
Lastly, I would like to thank you, Mr President, on behalf of the task team of Cabinet members you appointed to handle the problem that had arisen, for your leadership and wise counsel as we tried to resolve what clearly was a situation that greatly corroded our image as a country.