Issued by the South African Human Rights Commission, 20 May 2008

This is the strong call coming from the meeting today between the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), the Commission on Gender Equality (CGE), the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), the Office of the Public Protector and civil society organisations.

The incessant attacks on our sisters and brothers are an attack on all of us. Such senseless violence is never justifiable.

We call upon government to give a clear and co-ordinated response to this national emergency. There must be an immediate moratorium on the arrest and deportation of victims of violence, irrespective of their legal status. Government must take urgent steps to intensify security measures, including reinforcing the police where necessary. In this context, we call on the government to consider whether deployment of the military is not necessary at this stage. The deployment of armed forces must be done within clearly controlled measures to stem the violence.

We call on the judiciary and the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development to ensure that special and extra-ordinary courts are set up in order to ensure that those arrested are brought to trial immediately.

We call upon the community to show clear and active support of our neighbours, friends and colleagues if they are threatened by violence. We appeal to neighbours not to move into the evacuated houses of those fleeing the violence. Those who do so must be reported to the local police. Our communities must not allow the criminal elements to take advantage of the situation and must report to the police. We acknowledge the work that is being done by some Community Policing Forums (CPF) and community organisations in affected areas.

We call upon civil society organisations to mobilise their own constituencies to take an active stance against violence and to provide humanitarian support, including shelter, food provision and protection. We urge civil society institutions and organisations to work closely with the National Co-ordinating Team.

The role of the media cannot be overemphasised. We appeal to the media to ensure responsible communication.

Way forward: The organisations meeting here commit themselves to set up a co-ordinating team and to replicate this in all provinces.

We call on all South Africans to join us as we call out - do not touch my sister, do not touch my brother.