'Tshwane is failing refugees'

“Inhuman conditions” forced the Institute for Islamic Services (IIS) to stop its relief work in refugee camps in Pretoria last week.

And in Durban refugees displaced by xenophobic violence are being left on the steps of City Hall as churches run out of the resources needed to continue providing for them.

The IIS, which had been providing two meals a day to 1 500 refugees in the North and South Camps in the Pretoria suburb of Acacia.

It warned that conditions there amount to basic “human rights violations” by the city’s disaster management team.

Said IIS official Yusuf Mustapha: “In the South camp [which accommodates 700 people] the toilets are not being emptied, there are no bins or refuse removal, so there are flies everywhere and diseases are starting to spread.

“Since last week the ambulance has been coming daily to take three or four people to hospital.”

Mustapha said that a meeting on Monday with Tshwane’s disaster management team had failed to resolve many of the problems the IIS had highlighted.

He said an IIS request to have its role as a food provider renewed had “fallen on deaf ears”, leading the non-profit organisation to conclude that “there is a negative agenda on the part of this government affiliate [disaster management].

“We therefore are left with no choice but to pull out our services with immediate effect.”

Other problems highlighted by the IIS include “insufficient blankets, particularly for the children”, the fact that the dietary requirements of the camp’s mainly Muslim population are being ignored and inadequate tents and toilet facilities.

The IIS said disaster management should take greater control of the daily running of the camp “instead of leaving this responsibility to any ‘Jack and Jill’, resulting in chaos”.

At the time of going to press on Thursday Tshwane’s disaster management team was still negotiating with the IIS.

In Durban 158 people housed at the Glenwood Methodist Church for more than a month were moved to the steps of City Hall last Wednesday after the church ran out of money and food.

Last week another 50 people were moved from the Greyville Methodist Church.

A large proportion of those displaced were victims of the first outbreak of xenophobia in the city, after which they fled from an armed mob to a lodge close to the Dalton Men’s Hostel in Umbilo.

They have relied on the goodwill of faith-based organisations and civil society for food and shelter.

Said Congolese national Akyamba Hulubatu: “The church ran out of resources, so we agreed to come to the City Hall.

“Mr Mike Sutcliffe [the municipal manager] came to see us and told us that we were out of his budget and that we couldn’t be helped before the local people [who had been affected by the floods].”

Hulubatu said the municipality offered the refugees accommodation in a refugee hostel in the CBD, but that conditions there were worsening.

“There are three toilets, one bathroom and a one-plate stove for 158 people. We can’t live like this,” he said.

Sharm Maharaj of the eThekwini municipality said local government had, with the provincial government, organised the “voluntary repatriation of about 400 refugees” to Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi.

“We have fully integrated the 400 to 500 people staying at police stations around the city back into their communities and will hold a meeting with this last batch of people next week to ensure they are integrated,” said Maharaj.

Niren Tolsi

Niren Tolsi

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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