Parly committee probing xenophobia requests extension

Ad hoc joint committee on probing violence against foreign nationals is left with only a handful of days until its deadline to present its report to Parliament and it is nowhere near ready. 

The committee was supposed to finish its work by September 30. Its deadline was moved from August 30 to September 30 at the request of the committee. And as Parliament is heading towards recess, the committee might lapse if the extension is not granted on time, and will have to be reconvened during the last term of the year.

The committee was set up after a violent spate of attacks against foreign nationals around the country in April, which resulted in at least seven deaths and thousands fleeing their homes. The committee met on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the draft report, but with only six out of 20 MPs in attendance, the scope of their work was limited. At a meeting on Tuesday, co-chairperson ANC MP Tekoetsile Motlashuping bemoaned the fact that MPs did not bother to show up to numerous meetings, making it harder for them to carry out their mandate. He said they would have to request another extension.

“We are in a tight corner now. Parliament has mandated us, as two houses, the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces, to carry out this duty and I’m very disappointed that honourable members are not showing up for some time to serve in this committee.”

With recess only days away, the MPs stressed the need to make sure the committee is procedurally correct in asking for an extension, as the end of term might lead to it lapsing. While the committee did not go into details on the report, they did question the lack of findings, as well as the structure, which focuses more on the background work rather than the work of the committee. Since its first meeting in June, the committee has had oversight visits in Gauteng, Kwazulu-Natal and the Western Cape, as well as written submissions from various associations.

Draft recommendations
In the draft report, which has not yet been adopted, the committee recommends the promotion of social cohesion, the need for premiers to exchange ideas and the department of home affairs to prioritise the issuing of correct documentation to foreign nationals.

“The state should condemn unequivocally comments by person in positions of authority and influence which may amount to incitement of violence,” the draft report recommends. 

The most recent spate of deadly attacks were said to have started after King Goodwill Zwelithini allegedly said foreigners were committing crime in South Africa and should go back to their home countries. He has since denounced xenophobia.  The report encourages Zwelithini to initiate and actively participate in community dialogues between South Africans and cross-border migrants in the interest of improved social cohesion.

“All ministries need to reinvest in ensuring that the UN World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Xenophobia and Related Intolerance resolutions be followed up and implemented. The ministry of home affairs needs to publicise a clear and transparent policy on repatriation as part of the social conflict disaster plans and reintegration plans.  “The Minister of Justice should prioritise the adoption of legislation dealing with hate crimes,” the draft report recommends.

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