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Govt ‘not doing enough to address xenophobia’

The government is in denial about xenophobia, says an independent peer-review report released on Tuesday.

“The evaluating group felt that the South African government is not doing enough to address the issue of xenophobia and pointed out that there is even an element of denialism on behalf of some officials,” says the report, titled, “Implementing the African Peer Review Mechanism [APRM] Views from Civil Society”.

It was released by the APRM Monitoring Project (AMP) to the Pan African Parliament on Tuesday.

The AMP is run jointly by the South African Institute of International Affairs, the Centre for Policy Studies and the Africa Governance, Monitoring and Advocacy Project.

South Africa’s last peer-review report, called the South African Implementation Report II (SAIR II), in January 2011, did not pay enough attention to xenophobia, says the document released on Tuesday.

“It is noteworthy that SAIR II devotes a whole section to xenophobia, which introduces further responses from government to xenophobia and acknowledges the role of civil society in taking a lead on the issue.

“However, it is poorly written with inadvertent repetition and was clearly assembled in a hurry.”

A wave of violence against foreigners swept through South Africa in May 2008, leaving at least 67 people dead and tens of thousands displaced.

Since then, several reports of pockets of violence against foreigners in different parts of the country have surfaced in the media.

The report gives South Africa’s dealing with xenophobia a red rating, which means “no progress has been achieved on addressing the issue; or very little progress has been achieved and the government does not seem to be on track to complete it in the near future”.

‘Increasing racial divisions’
On racism, South Africa receives an orange rating — slightly better than red.

“The evaluating group noted with concern some of the rhetoric from politicians seemingly aimed at increasing racial divisions that preceded the May 18 2011 municipal elections.

“However, given the country’s past, the group also noted that apart from isolated incidences of racism, South Africa needs to be given credit for the way the society has moved on. Nevertheless, although much progress has been achieved, many issues remain, hence an orange rating,” says the report.

African National Congress Youth League leader Julius Malema called white people criminals and accused them of stealing land shortly before the municipal elections.

‘Blurred’
The report also gave the party-state relationship the worst possible rating.

“The president should provide particular leadership in making party-state distinctions. Holding office for the entire country, the president needs to guard against the commandeering of state resources for party ends,” says the report.

“The distinction between the state and the political party has become blurred,” adds the document. — Sapa

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