Accusations fly over xenophobia in De Doorns

The De Doorns xenophobia victims would remain housed in tents in the town for the weekend, the South African Human Rights Commission’s Western Cape manager said on Thursday.

Talks were continuing over the reintegration of the foreigners into the local community, Leonardo Goosen said.

A task team was trying to talk to as many role-players as possible, and would meet community leaders on Monday, he said.

Meanwhile, the Western Cape government has rejected claims it does not care about the 3 000-odd refugees.

Premier Helen Zille’s spokesperson Robert Macdonald said refugee rights group People Against Suffering, Suppression, Oppression and Poverty (Passop) was wrong to claim provincial safety minister Lennit Max had not yet visited De Doorns.

“He was in De Doorns on Tuesday, as soon as the xenophobic violence was reported to him, and liaised with the SAPS [SA Police Service], local government and community representatives.”

He said Zille would be visiting De Doorns on Thursday afternoon from Beaufort West.

Passop said earlier that Zille and her ministers had not apologised to the refugees for the pain they had suffered.

“Provincial government ... is concerned only for some miraculous reintegration in order to avoid further embarrassment,” it said in a statement.

Neither Max, who had “kept busy addressing numerous media outlets”, nor Zille, had visited the site, the organisation claimed.

The foreigners, mostly Zimbabwean nationals, fled their shacks in De Doorns on Tuesday following confrontations with local residents, who claimed they were robbing them of jobs on farms. Most of them have since been given emergency shelter in marquees on a local sports field.

Passop said it was “alarmed and insulted” by reported comments by De Doorns mayor Charles Ntsomi that authorities were “considering” reintegrating the refugees into the community as soon as possible.

“No community forcefully displaced can possibly reintegrate successfully in such a short time without a proper process for healing, counselling, and negotiations,” Passop said.

It also said the Freedom Front Plus’s (FF+) “xenophobic statements” on the issue were an attempt to gain political mileage.

FF+ home affairs spokesperson Corné Mulder said in a statement on Wednesday the xenophobia was “due to the government’s actions” and poor border control.

A trade union for women on farms, Sikhula Sonke, said in a statement on Thursday that it “strongly condemns” the situation in De Doorns.

It felt the local farm workers’ frustration was aimed at the wrong people.

“Government’s failure to alleviate poverty, regulate labour brokers, protect the agriculture economy ... are some of the main reasons for the situation in De Doorns,” the union said. - Sapa

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