Open­ing a di­a­logue to strike out xeno­pho­bia

The Star Early Edition - - POLITICS - NONI MOKATI

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

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