Parly committee mulls how to stem xenophobic attacks

Residents of Ramaphosaville on the East Rand try to save their possessions as their shacks burn during xenophobic attacks in 2008. (Paul Botes, M&G)

Residents of Ramaphosaville on the East Rand try to save their possessions as their shacks burn during xenophobic attacks in 2008. (Paul Botes, M&G)

A parliamentary committee probing South Africa’s recent xenophobic attacks agreed on Friday that the views of ordinary citizens should be sought, as well as those working in the hospitality and taxi cab industries. The ad hoc committee, set up in the wake of the latest xenophobic violence in April which resulted in seven deaths and the displacement of thousands, held its first sitting on Friday, and resolved to visit the affected areas.

African National Congress MP Loyiso Mpumlwana said while meeting with NGO and migrant organisations was important, communities also needed to be involved.

“We need to talk to our people,” he said.

Democratic Alliance MP Toby Chance agreed, and said the views of ordinary citizens were important.

“We need to be speaking to them and getting their views. Obviously they will be anecdotal because there is only a certain amount of time one would give to speaking to those people, but I think to ignore those people will be a mistake. And confining it to Gauteng and KZN will also be problematic.”

The committee plans to produce a final report by the end of August, a timeframe which Chance said left it with little time.

“I don’t think it is sufficient in view of the importance of this topic. Perhaps it is unrealistic,” he said.

ANC MP Landulile Dlamini said it was essential to involve local government in the oversight visits and with meeting owners of businesses. Dlamini also suggested the committee not confine its focus to spaza shops, many of which were looted during the previous xenophobic outbreaks, and should include those working in the agricultural sector and hospitality industry.

Some of the recommendations after the 2008 attacks included ensuring the department of home affairs prioritised the issuing of foreign nationals with correct documentation; maintaining adequate records and rooting out corruption. It was also suggested that an audit of RDP houses be carried out and that a policy be developed around their occupation, sale and rental to ensure only South Africans occupied these houses.

Committee co-chairperson ANC MP Tekoetsile Motlashuping said it was very important to restore the image and “dignity” of the country.

“But I’m not sure about the manner in which we would go about it.”

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