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Zodidi Mhlana, Niren Tolsi, Sello S Alcock23 May 2008 06:00
The ANC and the Gauteng government have both hinted darkly that a “third force” is stoking and orchestrating xenophobic violence—without producing a shred of evidence to support this conspiracy theory.
Although it has not been made explicit, the suggestion is that the Inkatha Freedom Party is the culprit.
There are strong indications that some of the attackers came from migrant worker hostels in Johannesburg, particularly those in Alex, Denver and Jeppe, but no evidence has been produced of party political instigation.
In addition, much of the violence has taken place in informal settlements where there are no hostels.
During a tour of the violence-hit areas this week Minister of Intelligence Ronnie Kasrils claimed that “we are not just seeing spontaneous xenophobic attacks ... There are many social issues at the root of the problem, but we have reason to believe that there are many other organisations involved in sparking the attacks.
We are analysing the situation.” Kasrils did not name the organisation or organisations allegedly responsible.
ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe referred all queries regarding the existence of a third force to the Gauteng government. Gauteng ANC spokesperson Nkenke Kekana reportedly claimed “a hidden hand” was trying to destabilise communities.
Gauteng sports minister Barbra Creecy, speaking on behalf of provincial safety and security minister Firoz Cachalia, reportedly said: “The police now have concrete evidence of those involved in orchestrations and they are dealing with it.”
On Thursday the director general of the National Intelligence Agency, Manala Manzini, claimed that the violence had been deliberately unleashed and orchestrated ahead of next yearâ€™s general election. Sapa reports that he was speaking to African intelligence chiefs at a conference in Cape Town. Manzini said that the media had defined the violence as xenophobic, but that the problem was more complex because South Africans of Tsonga and Venda descent were also targeted.
“We believe that as South Africa prepares for another national election early next year, the so-called black-on-black violence that we witnessed prior to our first election in 1994 has deliberately been unleashed and orchestrated,” Manzini said.
The Umkhonto we izwe Military Veteransâ€™ Association also claimed on Wednesday that the violence was politically motivated. “This is not just innocent violence,” said MKMVA secretary Peter Ngubeni.
Ngubeni said that on the East Rand attacks seemed to come mainly from hostel dwellers. Because foreigners do not live in hostels, there appeared to be another reason for them to be attacking people with whom they had no contact. He said political parties were trying to garner support before the next yearâ€™s elections.
The theory was given impetus when The Sowetan reported that a suspect arrested in connection with attacks on foreigners in White City Jabavu, Soweto, confessed to being paid to attack foreigners. But when the Mail & Guardian approached SAPS spokesperson Mpande Khoza, he dismissed the report. Khoza said that the newspaper had merely overheard community members suggesting that one of the suspects “had been paid”.
A senior Gauteng government official, who asked not to be named, told the M&G that an IFP branch meeting in Alexandra on the Sunday preceded the eruption of violence in that area. He claimed a resolution to attack foreigners was adopted at the meeting and attacks were launched the same day. “We are still investigating, but that is the information we have. We donâ€™t want to cause panic by publicising this,” the official said. He added: “You must ask yourself why most of the violence broke out in areas next to the hostels in Cleveland, Jeppe and George Goch. Anyone can see the relationship between the violence and the hostels. Even in Tembisa the violence was next to Madelakufa hostel.”
The official said that Johannesburg mayor Amos Masondo and Gauteng housing minister Nomvula Mokonyane recently held a day-long meeting with about 500 community represen-tatives about the provinceâ€™s renewal project in Alexandra. “The meeting went very well and the issue of foreigners did not come up at all.
“I suspect that some people have started their election campaign and they decided that the issue of foreigners would be an election issue. Ask yourself: who is being served by this violence and who stands to lose?”
Government spokesperson Thabo Masebe dismissed suggestions that Creecy was referring to a third force. He said she had been trying to describe the style of the attacks, which led the Gauteng government to believe they were orchestrated.
Masebe confirmed that the police, in collaboration with the National Intelligence Agency, are investigating those responsible for the violence.
Reacting, IFP secretary general Musa Zondi said that claims of IFP involvement were “propaganda”, as members of all political parties are involved in the attacks. “It is mischievous to single out the IFP. Thereâ€™s no denial that members of the IFP, ANC and PAC are involved in this, across the board. Hostel dwellers are not IFP members only. They belong to the other parties as well. Sanco members are also involved,” said Zondi.
Meanwhile, ANC leaders in KwaZulu-Natal blamed a third force and criminal elements for looting a Nigerian-owned tavern and intimidating foreigners living in a lodge in Umbilo, Durban.
Provincial safety minister Bheki Cele said the attack on the Ultimate Fast Food and Bar, at which there was predominately foreign clientele, was “without a shadow of a doubt IFP-engineered”. IFP provincial chairperson Mntomuhle Khawuhle described the accusations as “irresponsible”.
On television this week political analyst Moeletsi Mbeki dismissed ANC attempts to shift the blame on to criminals as scapegoating.
Read more from Zodidi Mhlana
Niren Tolsi is a freelance journalist.His areas of interest include social justice; citizen mobilisation and state violence; protest; the constitution and the constitutional court and football. Read more from Niren Tolsi
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