/ 26 May 2008

Xenophobia: Call for full inquiry

The National Association of Democratic Lawyers called on the government on Monday to appoint a commission of inquiry into the xenophobic violence and offer financial relief to victims.

”Nadel calls on the government to hold a full enquiry, in the form of a judicial commission, to investigate all the factors and causes that gave rise to this crisis,” it said in a statement.

The organisation added that the state should ”offer structural, financial, psychological and any other appropriate relief to all the victims of this violence”.

”This violence is a blot on our country which has produced one of the finest Constitutions in the world and which in 1994 was born as a beacon to the warring nations, of peace, reconciliation and justice for all,” said Nadel.

”South Africa is at the cross-roads. Our leadership has major responsibilities to point the country in the way that we marched as a nation after 1994.”

Meanwhile, the Democratic Alliance congratulated residents of Masiphumelele township near Fish Hoek in the Western Cape who issued an apology to the foreigners displaced in the violence which has left 50 people dead and thousands displaced.

”This resolution not only demonstrates citizens’ ability to address this crisis effectively, but also to pioneer solutions to the problem of re-integrating displaced foreigners back into their neighbourhoods.

”We applaud the members of this community for their action, and urge others to follow their commendable example,” the DA said.

How to prosecute?

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the Justice Ministry met in Pretoria on Monday to decide how about 500 xenophobia suspects would be prosecuted.

”The objective is to have dedicated resources set aside to have special courts and court officials to enable us to process this as soon as possible,” said NPA spokesperson Tlali Tlali.

He said members of the prosecuting authority were locked in a meeting with the director general and other justice officials to discuss the prosecution of the suspects.

”We are not in a position to make details available at this stage as we are in the process of consulting with all the relevant stakeholders,” Tlali said.

Gauteng police Director Govindsamy Mariemuthoo could not say how many of those arrested had already appeared in court.

”It is difficult to say because different people were arrested on different charges. Many of them have appeared in court already and were remanded.” – Sapa

DA slams ‘vacuous’ Home Affairs minister

Meanwhile, the DA slammed Home Affairs Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula’s ”vacuous” handling of the escalating humanitarian crisis resulting from the attacks.

She should urgently brief the National Assembly’s home affairs committee to explain what her department had done to address the crisis, and what steps it intended taking to either help reintegrate or repatriate foreign nationals, DA spokesperson Donald Lee said.

”While estimates vary, it would seem that at least 40 000 foreign nationals have been displaced as a result of the ongoing xenophobic attacks,” he said.

The department’s response up to now had been woefully inadequate.

The minister had not only consistently refused to acknowledge the full scale of the crisis, but had also failed to implement her own plan mooted on May 15 — four days after the first wave of attacks in Alexandra — to return all displaced people, both South African and foreign, to their homes before the end of that week.

In addition to this, her assertion that despite the current chaos, she would not do anything differently to manage the process of immigration into South Africa was yet further indication of just how vacuous her leadership had become.

”This is an astonishing admission from a minister whose department’s myriad failings are largely responsible for the current crisis,” Lee said.

Her inability to assess the full scale of the problem was compounded by her lack of urgency on the question of providing refugee camps or safe-zones.

She had consistently opposed this idea despite the pressing need for their establishment.

These would help guarantee the safety of displaced persons, give them access to basic services such as clean water, shelter, sanitation, and food, and provide a secure central point for relief organisations to help.

It would also facilitate processing those foreign nationals who wanted either to be re-integrated into their neighbourhoods, or repatriated to their home countries, Lee said. – Sapa