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Joburg unites against xenophobia

 

The City of Joburg has moved to condemn the recent spate of xenophobic violence and rampant criminality, which has wreaked havoc in several parts of the country, including Alexandra and Jeepstown in recent weeks.
In a joint press conference with the Migrant Help Desk and religious leaders, Joburg Executive Mayor, Councillor Parks Tau called for the cessation of violence against foreign nationals, who’ve been targeted for over three weeks now and blamed for the country’s escalating social ills.

Mayor Tau said the City had developed a solid response to the scourge of xenophobia sweeping through the country and would continue to work with all migrants, national government and law enforcement agencies in stabilising the situation.

“We’ve convened the migration advisory panel, a committee set up to advise the City around issues of migration to discuss the spate of xenophobic violence and our response is the same; no amount of social ills can justify the violence against foreigners,” Tau said.

The mayor announced on Monday, 20 April that an action plan had been devised to deal with xenophobia. The City has partnered with cellphone giant Vodacom to set up an electronic system in which foreigners can log a distress call 24 hours a day – *134*422# to get assistance when attacked.

Mayor Tau said the system would also assist civilians to report incidents of xenophobia and looting in an efficient way and will enable those affected by the violence to get in touch with their loved ones in case of emergencies.

A joint operations centre has also been set up in the inner city to help those displaced by the xenophobic violence, which has thrown the country into turmoil. Foreigners in the city can also access assistance through the Migrant Helpdesk, which has been set up to provide them with information on socioeconomic opportunities, education, housing, healthcare and non-governmental services.

More than 300 people have been arrested following the recent spate of sporadic attacks on foreigners. The national death toll stands at seven, with an estimated 300 people displaced in Johannesburg alone.

Mayor Tau said the municipality would assist those displaced by the violence to integrate back into communities before the temporary shelters housing them are dismantled.

The xenophobic violence that began almost three weeks ago in Durban, KwaZulu Natal has spread to Alexandra and Jeppestown and other parts of the country.

Mayor Tau said as part of the City’s intervention, foreign nationals would be educated about the rights and status of migrants entering the country, either as refugees or asylum seekers, , bylaws governing the city, the type of documents they need and the existence of the Migrants’ Helpdesk.

“There is an action plan in place that seeks to mobilise every unit of society to ensure that migrants are registered to trade and that everyone who is displaced is integrated back in their communities,” the mayor explained.

In addition, the City will host a free benefit concert in Newtown on Saturday, 25 April to mobilise people against xenophobia and publicly deride the violence. A fun walk will also be held on Sunday, 26 April to denounce xenophobia and issue an impassioned plea for unity among Africans.

Member of the Mayoral Committee for Community Development Chris Vondo said the free concert is designed to celebrate the City as a melting pot of people and cultures from all over the continent, all of whom make it what it is. MMC Vondo said a host of activities had been planned for May – Africa Month to promote unity and coexistence.

“We strongly disapprove of the violent attack in Alexandra in which Mozambican Emmanuel Sithole died and are calling on communities to refrain from any violent attacks or xenophobic activities,” Mayor Tau said.

Reverend Thomas Reinekitutu from the Democratic Republic of Congo commended the City for affording migrants a platform to engage and find solutions to xenophobia. He further thanked all South Africans for condemning the attacks and for continuing to accommodate foreigners in their communities. He said the issue, should however not be politicised.