Has the South African Government done enough to fight Xenophobia?
By Hassan Isilow
This weekend was yet another grieving one for the Somali refugee community in the Western Cape. Three of their nationals were murdered in robberies at different Townships around Cape Town. According to activists working with Somali refugees in Bellville, the first Somali national was killed at his shop in Kraaifontein on Tuesday. The second was also gunned down in a robbery at his shop in Khayelitsha on the outskirts of Cape Town on Wednesday night.
Meanwhile, the third was killed on Saturday, while delivering goods at a shop in Philippi Township. The deceased was identified as 30 year old Abdi Mohamud. According to family sources, Mohamud was shot while offloading goods at a shop in Philippi.
“After he was shot, he ran to his bakkie and attempted to drive off, but the robbers followed him and continued shooting at him until he died inside the van,” Mohammed Ali, a relative related by telephone.
In recent crime statistics Philippi Township was categorized as the most dangerous place to live in, with the highest murder cases in the country. Efforts to contact the Police in Phillippi for a comment where fruitless as no one answered the phone.
On a related note, activists working with Somali refugees in the Western Cape report that there had been relative calm in the region for the past three months, leading to a welcome reduction in the attacks on Somali nationals. The last major attacks on Somali shopkeepers were recorded in May and June when over 25 Somalis were killed in different Cape Townships.
Somali traders claim they are deliberately being targeted around the country, mainly because of business jealousy from local traders. They also believe that xenophobia is still behind the opposition they face from community leaders. “Many local community leaders still believe that foreigners are here to take jobs from them,” said Sheikh Abdi Rashid Afi of the Somali Community Board (SCOB).
In June an independent peer review report released found that Government was in denial about xenophobia. “The elevating 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,” the report titled, Implementing the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) Views from Civil Society’ stated.
The report was released by the AMP Monitoring Project to the Pan African Parliament in June. The AMP is run jointly by the SA Institute of International Affairs, the Centre for Policy Studies and the Africa Governance Monitoring and Advocacy Project. South Africa’s last peer review report – the South African Implementation Report II (SAIR II) – in January 2011, stated that Government did not pay enough attention to xenophobia.
“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,” the document stated.
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”.