Xenophobia / Afrophobia : Peace Returns to South Africa

Pretoria - Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe has reassured the country and the world that peace and calm have returned to communities that were affected by attacks on foreign nationals.

“We want to reassure those who have plans to travel to South Africa that our government is in charge. The violence has stopped.

“We are now working hard to ensure that nobody within the borders of our country is victimised based on their country of origin,” said Minister Radebe.

Minister Radebe was speaking at the first Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) briefing on migration held in Pretoria on Tuesday. The IMC was appointed by President Jacob Zuma to deal with the underlying causes of tension between communities and foreign nationals.

The briefing was called after the President and various Ministers conducted several consultations with different organisations and sectors representing both South Africans and foreign nationals in the country following attacks a few weeks ago.

Minister Radebe said government continues to actively support displaced foreign nationals in the country through provision of food, shelter and other necessities.

He said the Department of Social Development (DSD) is leading the intervention and psycho-social support has been provided to 812 individuals on site at the shelters.

“We encourage those who require counselling services to call 0800 428 428. The trauma counselling call centre is operational 24 hours a day.

“We have so far provided 2 000 mattresses, food, blankets, dignity packs, baby formula and clothing items to displaced persons at the various shelters,” said Minister Radebe, who is also the chairperson of the IMC.

He said the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) has established a help desk to manage any enquiries and complaints from displaced persons at shelters.

DSD also conducted an assessment in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng temporary shelters to establish the immediate needs of women and children.

“Pregnant women and people with disabilities have been transferred to secure shelters. Retired social workers were also deployed to the temporary shelters to strengthen the psycho-social services,” Minister Radebe said.


Minister Radebe said reports that some foreign nationals have begun to return to their communities are encouraging.

“As the situation continues to stabilise, we call on foreign nationals who are still in shelters to work with the department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) and Community Safety to ensure a smooth reintegration process,” the Minister said.

The IMC urged communities to open their arms to returning foreign nationals and to assist in their reintegration.

Minister Radebe said the return of displaced persons to their communities resulted in the official closure of Elsburg Shelter on 23 April.

“Those who were not yet ready to be reintegrated have been accommodated at the Primrose Shelter,” said Minister Radebe.

Provision of health care

Minister Radebe said the Department of Health closely monitors, coordinates and delivers health and medical services to foreign nationals in any area needed as well as at the temporary shelters.

This services include Emergency Medical Services, Primary Health Care services, Communicable Diseases Control, Environmental Health Services, Health Promotion, Forensic Pathology Services and Mental Health Services.

Documentation and verification

Minister Radebe said foreign nationals who are in the country illegally are either detained for prosecution or deportation by the Department of Home Affairs, and the department is currently assisting displaced persons to verify their status.

“In cases where the displaced persons have no documentation or they are in the country illegally, the department still captures their details.

“Their information and fingerprints are captured in order to provide documentation to facilitate their repatriation,” said Minister Radebe.

He said the Department of Home Affairs is working closely with foreign missions in South Africa to ensure the smooth repatriation of those who wish to voluntarily return to their home countries.

“We have thus far repatriated a total of 1 997 undocumented migrants from both KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng temporary shelters, 911 to Malawi, 316 to Mozambique, 753 to Zimbabwe, and 17 to Tanzania,” Minister Radebe said.

He said about 1 507 documented persons are awaiting repatriation and government will continue to engage with their missions to ensure a smooth process.

Preventing attacks

Minister Radebe said government has committed to find a lasting solution to the problem to prevent the shameful attacks from happening again.

“We believe that issues of migration can only be resolved by taking a holistic approach that deals with all issues highlighted by communities. This includes identifying and resolving challenges highlighted by local traders,” he said.

He said the Ministry of Small Business Development has also been tasked with identifying the issues that are relevant to small business.

SA still a home for all Africans

The Minister said despite the tragic events of the past weeks, Africans from other countries still consider South Africa a safe place to visit.

He said in March, 10 548 people from Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zimbabwe visited South Africa, and South Africa has welcomed 13 533 people from the same countries from the beginning of April to date.

“We are heartened that our brothers and sisters on the continent still consider our country a multicultural society that welcomes and promotes interaction among people of different backgrounds,” said the Minister.

Report by More Matshediso