South Africans living in informal settlements must begin to live in harmony with foreigners, in order to develop respect for human rights and bring peace and humanity to their communities, writes Nthambeleni Gabara.
This follows reports of continuous brutal attacks on foreign nationals and their stores and homes in various settlements across the country.
The Department of Home Affairs earlier warned that individuals who were fueling the violence would be dealt with severely.
In a bid to find a lasting solution to this challenge, the department facilitated discussions with the relevant stakeholders and refugees and immigrants, who are now living in South Africa after fleeing their homes in various African countries.
Deputy Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba, addressing the round table discussion held at the State Theatre on Tuesday, said the aim of the discussions was to draw up a plan of action on how to integrate immigrants more effectively within communities as well as developing methods of dealing with xenophobia.
He urged the police to deal strongly with those who are fueling xenophobic attacks.
Botswana national, Promise Chuma from the Southern African Youth Movement applauded the department for facilitating and organising the discussions.
"It is relevant because it allows direct contact between government departments with young people," she said.
Ms Chuma said it would not be easy to get into contact with the young people on the streets and one should rather utilise the youth structures which closely work with young immigrants.
She said South Africans needed to be sensitised to understand that they too have benefited heavily from immigration communities during the apartheid era.
"South Africans were supported through regional and international communities. They enjoyed solidarity support which they are still continuing to receive today, so they should extend helping hands to those who are vulnerable," she said.
Institute for Security Studies Head for Crime and Justice Prince Mashele said South Africa needed a robust social movement if it was to successfully fight xenophobia.
According to Mr Mashele, the social movement should involve civil society organisations, faith based organisations and government.
This should be both an educative and introspective process aimed at empowering people to understand the conditions that compel others to leave their respective countries to South Africa.
Representing South African Local Government Association (SALGA), Shirley Molema applauded the City of Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni and the Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality for initiating programmes aimed at educating residents to understand foreigners were in the country.
"We urge all spheres of local government across the country to inform people that foreigners are not in the country to steal, that they came to South Africa because of plight at their respective countries," she said.
President of the Revolutionary Youth Movement of Zimbabwe, Simon Mudekwa said he was impressed by the South African government's concern at the plight of refugees.
"I realised that the xenophobic attacks do not have the blessings of the South African government," he said following discussions.
Mr Mudekwa said it seemed there were certain people who were paying young South Africans cash to attack foreigners.
Sadly, while the discussions were taking place, attacks on foreigners broke out in a separate part of the city on Tuesday.
According media reports, a nine-year old girl was alleged to have been killed by fuming residents at Phumulong settlement, in Mamelodi where spaza shops and shacks were burnt down.
It was further alleged that 11 more homes were destroyed. Police are currently investigating cases of murder, malicious damage to property and theft and four people were arrested following the brutal attacks on foreigner
On 18 March six unidentified men ransacked a shop believed to have been owned by a foreigner in the west of Pretoria. The shop keeper was shot and died on the scene.
In Atteridgeville the businesses and belongings of foreign nationals were damaged in an attack motivated by xenophobia in February. Two foreign nationals were killed, while several others were injured.
In January violence also broke out in Soshanguve, north of Pretoria after residents accused the foreigners of criminal activities in the area. - BuaNews
Compiled by the Government Communication and Information System