Commission investigates causes of the xenophobic violence and reintegration of victims into their communities

Category : PACSA news

On the 23rd of June 2015, PACSA joined a number of faith-based organizations in a reflection on the recent spate of xenophobic violence in KwaZulu-Natal. The conversation, hosted by the Special Reference Group on Migration and Community Integration in KwaZulu-Natal under leadership of Judge Navi Pillay, previous United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, focussed on the causes of the violence and how victims could be reintegrated into the communities from which they fled.Resulting from these conversations the special reference group will report to the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government on measures to be employed to prevent such violence in the future.   Most organizations who participated in the conversation provided relief while foreign nationals were housed in camps in different parts of KZN. They all lamented the fact that the responses were not different from those seen during 2008 outbreaks. The state was slow to respond to the attacks and police and the army used excessive and brutal force to control the situation. They also pointed out that attacks on foreign nationals are occurring in SA in various guises even when not labelled as xenophobia. The images of the killing of Mido Macia, dragged by a police vehicle in the township of Daveyton, in Gauteng, on 26 February 2013, remains with us as do many other attacks on foreign nationals.   In our submission we presented the view that the causes and driving forces of this xenophobic violence is complex and includes: widespread and deepening inequality and poverty; myths about foreign-born people and blaming the ‘other’ for our situation; persistence of racism in our society; violent forms of masculinity which drives the violence; desperation of poor people to access the means that provides a sense of a dignified life. The need for further research on the geography and localized triggers of xenophobia will help in understanding the complexity of the causes and drivers of xenophobia. Exposing complicity of the state, especially its institutions becomes important. As long as there is no transparency in the admission of immigrants, especially on their rights to be in the country, the myths about foreigners taking jobs will continue and xenophobic attacks will emerge.   Dealing with the economic inequality and poverty remains the biggest task if we are to prevent such violence in the future. At the root of the constant xenophobic outbursts are real and violent struggles to survive in an economy that marginalizes and excludes. Confronting these economic and social realities and imagining a social relationship is the hardest but unavoidable if we are to root out xenophobic violence. The poor carry the burden of economic inequality and these conditions provoke violence by poor against poor. Poor people are not more prone to violence than others but it is the conditions that elicit this violence. Can we change these conditions? This is the long-term struggle.


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