Opening a dialogue to strike out xenophobia
JUST as South Africans act collectively against racism, they should act collectively against xenophobia, said African Diaspora Forum chairperson Marc Gbaffou yesterday.
He was speaking at the inaugural launch of the Voices 360 Dialogue hosted by Independent Media at the Market Theatre Square in Newtown, Joburg.
Gbaffou joined Zimbabwean, Nigerian, Malawian, Congolese and Somalian nationals in a robust discourse with academics and community members on their experiences of xenophobia, its root causes and how it could be challenged.
Gbaffou said just as KwaZuluNatal estate agent Penny Sparrow was taken to task over her monkey remark, those responsible for xenophobic attacks should be taken to task.
Anele Ndlovu, president of the Zimbabwe-SA Forum, said it was time South Africans understood the world had become a global village. He said South Africa and her people gained nothing by fighting fellow Africans.
Speaking on root causes, Richard Melville-Smith from the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies said cases of violence associated with xenophobia were different from province to province. He added it was important to look into the xenophobic racist identity-based ranking system of South Africa. “We all latch onto that as South Africans… to legitimise our demand for rights and services but (we should) acknowledge our constitution is inclusive and protects the rights of everyone.”
Ncumisa Willie, research adviser to SA Human Rights Commissioner (SAHRC) advocate Bongani Majola, said once the issue of socioeconomic rights was discussed, the country would go a step further in addressing xenophobia.
“There are communities where non-nationals and South Africans live peacefully. In instances where attacks happen, there have been South Africans who have gone out of their way to help foreign nationals. These are instances we can look at and learn from and ask ourselves what are the conditions for peaceful co-existence.”
While the media has played a role in creating awareness of xenophobic violence, Pretty Mncube from the Action for Conflict Transformation said it was imperative that words, headlines and phrases should not be used to perpetuate stereotypes and fuel violence.
Elisabeth Jengo, a Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation advocacy officer, also emphasised the need to exercise caution on matters relating to foreign nationals.
Many agreed that government officials, particularly those in the departments of police, home affairs and intelligence, needed to address xenophobia on a continuous basis, and not only when attacks occurred.
LOOK AND LEARN: Ncumisa Willie of the SAHRC speaks at the launch of the Voices 360 Dialogue yesterday. PICTURE: NOKUTHULA MBATHA