/ 18 June 2008

SA has ‘damaged soul’, says Rasool

Intolerance was at the root of the xenophobic attacks that swept the country last month, Western Cape Premier Ebrahim Rasool told a debate in Johannesburg on Tuesday night.

”Xenophobia, racism, sexism, in fact all fundamentalism, all acts of intolerance belong to one family and if you are to deal with one member of the family, you have got to be consistent in dealing with all members of that family,” he said at the University of the Witwatersrand.

Society could not call xenophobia a crisis only when it impinged on their well-being.

Inequality was massive, but anyone who pointed out that it was colour-coded was accused of re-racialising society, but when xenophobia occured, everyone wondered why.

”If you are not consistent with the sister, you cannot hope to deal with the brother,” Rasool said.

”If you don’t deal with sexism, you can’t hope to deal with xenophobia. So you need to be able to know how to deal with the family,” he said.

South Africans had to recognise that the nation probably still had a ”damaged soul”.

”Maybe in our smugness, we have overlooked major [problems] in society,” he said.

It was this smugness which could have blinded people to their lack of co-existence.

”We have got to pierce deeper into the problem if we are to deal with it better,” he said.

This could mean making a transition from quantitative development targets to qualitative targets — not concentrating on how many houses were being built as on what was happening to the people in the new houses.

Other areas which could be looked at were the country’s labour standards, pumping resources into trouble spots and understanding what the fight against inequality entailed.

The government had to look at the issue of migration control, who controlled the border and whether the country had open borders or not.

Migration control
It was the government’s obligation to secure the country’s borders, argued the immigration advisory board’s former chairperson Wilmot James.

Doing so was important for the rule of law and constitutionality, he said.

While not easy to do, it was possible, using modern technology, to identify the places where people could cross the border illegally, he said.

It was also possible to mobilise the South African National Defence Force to make the border secure.

University of South Africa vice-chancellor Barney Pityana disagreed, submitting that securing the country’s borders would not work in keeping foreigners out.

He said that what was needed was a system of migration which facilitated the immigration of people at the right places.

”After all, South Africa, with 45-million or 46-million people is not over-populated,” he said.

”I think it is not impossible for this country to absorb, in an orderly fashion, more people to come to South Africa.”

Other panelists were independent policy analyst Ebrahim-Khalil Hassen, and former minister of tourism and environmental affairs Valli Moosa. The debate was chaired by Moeletsi Mbeki.

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela took pride of place in the audience, seated in the front row, while elsewhere were suspended Ekurhuleni police chief Robert McBride and lawyer George Bizos.

8 271 displaced in Cape Metro
The number of people displaced by xenophobic violence in Cape Town has risen to 8 271, Western Cape Disaster Management said on Tuesday.

The city confirmed that the total had risen by 200 in the past two days.

Gale force winds had blown down tents and knocked over toilets in the large Soetwater, Blue Waters and Harmony Park refugee camps.

As part of a contingency plan, it was proposed that the city and the province’s disaster management centres merge, an idea which was ”generally well supported”.

On Monday night representatives of the refugees handed a memorandum to the Provincial Disaster Management Centre (PDMC), apologising for intimidating volunteers and field workers.

”[They] also expressed their strong will and promise to cooperate with government officials and NGOs working to solve the problem. The PDMC welcomed this memorandum received as a very positive step in resolving the situation.” – Sapa