Police chief angers migrants
By Hassan Isilow
Migrants across South Africa have reacted with anger to remarks made by the national police commissioner Bheki Cele, which they regard as hate speech that could incite xenophobia. Amir Sheikh, secretary general of the Somali Community Board (SCOB) said the police commissioner’s statements were likely to set a dangerous precedent.
“Although the commissioner has retracted his statements, we feel his utterances were very unfortunate owing to the fact that Somali’s are a vulnerable people who are often targeted in xenophobic attacks,” Sheik said, adding his organisation had forgiven the police commissioner after his retraction and won’t consider suing him.
Cele recently said Somalis had pushed out locals from business. He further accused them of being responsible for the high rental property in Bellville a suburb of Cape Town. “If you rent a flat there, they come and rent you out. At the spazas (small shops), they’re better stocked than Shoprite. We can’t have a country that’s run by people who jump the borders,” Cele told a breakfast meeting of police officers in Khayelitsha (a Township of Cape Town) last Thursday. The Police commissioner claimed dominance of foreign traders in the country was fuelling xenophobic violence. “Our people have been economically displaced; all these spaza shops (in the townships) are not run by locals,” Cele claims.
Refugee activist Braam Hanekom of PASSOP said these utterances by the police
chief were inciting and very dangerous. “We should be very concerned. How can the leader of a police force make such reckless statements?” Hanekom said many low ranking police officers in South Africa were xenophobic towards foreign nationals because of the bad influence they were getting from local councillors and top police officers.
“No wonder the police always responds late whenever foreign traders are attacked,” the activist said this week, adding they received information that some police officers had torn apart documents belonging to a group of foreign nationals in Cape Town. Efforts to get a comment from the commissioner’s spokesperson were futile as she was unwilling to comment on this matter.