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Govt concerned over xenophobic attacks

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Govt concerned over xenophobic attacks

by Vivian Warby
13 May 2008
BuaNews Online
BuaNews Online

Government is worried about the recent spate of xenophobic attacks, according to Minister of Safety and Security Charles Nqakula.

Speaking at a Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster media briefing in Cape Town on Tuesday, he said attacks on foreigners was becoming a problem, but that it had not reached crisis proportions.

He said the violence was located only in hotspots and it was not a countrywide phenomenon.

The minister was answering questions following the recent violence against foreigners, the latest of which occurred in Alexandra, Johannesburg on Monday.

Residents from Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique were wounded in a late night mob attack.

Reports state that a mob broke into the residents' shacks and demanded they move out of the area. The foreigners were allegedly whipped, shot at, robbed and had stones thrown at them.

A number of residents were arrested in connection with the attacks.

The minister said it was difficult to control these incidents with conventional police methods as they were social crimes.

While police would deal strongly once at the scene, it was important for communities to be educated.

"This is not essentially a police matter that can be dealt with conventional police methods as police only come after an eruption.

"To this extent that government intervenes via communications, where we try to win over communities to be against this violent behaviour.

"As government we implore people to stop such behaviour."

He said they should be aware that some foreigners who have become victims have become permanent residents here.

People often came to South Africa because they had been violently ejected from their own countries, he said, added that many others were in fact permanent residents of South Africa.

"It is very wrong to deal with the matter in this way," he said.

Police only come to the scene after the crime is perpetrated, he said. The community needed to understand the political necessity to accommodate people from other countries.

The Department of Home Affairs earlier this year warned individuals who were fueling the violence against foreign nationals that they would be dealt with severely.

In a bid to find a lasting solution to this challenge, the department facilitated discussions last month with the relevant stakeholders and refugees and immigrants, who are now living in South Africa after fleeing their homes in various African countries.

South Africans needed to be sensitised to understand that they too benefited heavily from immigration communities during the apartheid era.

Government said it was to increase border control as one of the factors to deal with the streaming in of foreign nationals into the country.

The South African Police Services has increased its service levels dramatically on the Swaziland and Mozambique borders for borderline security since the withdrawal of the SANDF, the cluster said.

By 2009 the police levels would be as high as 5 300, however, certain functions would remain with the SANDF.

Border control continues to receive serious attention from the cluster. A new mobile cargo scanner has been installed at the Durban harbour.

The technology will curb the smuggling of illegal and counterfeit goods into the country. The scanner is the first of eighteen to be introduced at different ports. - BuaNews

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