“Peace in Africa is in our hands”
Currently around the world, refugees, asylum seekers, migrants, and others viewed as “foreign” have been the targets of violent attacks.
ACTION Support Centre is currently at the forefront, addressing xenophobia motivated violence in four local communities in different provinces of South Africa. We acknowledge with appreciation Freedom House, which is funding the “Combatting Drivers of Xenophobia” project. In conflict prevention, peace builders can play a unique role, through monitoring the situation on the ground, they can provide early warning before violence erupts and because they are known and trusted by locals, communities turn to them as valuable mediators that prevent people from taking matters into their own hands when violence is imminent. This project believes that if community-based institutions and fora for accountability, conflict mitigation and violence prevention are inclusive, function robustly, and are equitably shaped by, respond to, and serve all populations in South African society including foreign nationals, women, minorities, youth, and the elderly through participatory decision-making, then intergroup cooperation, early problem solving around grievances, and social resilience will increase.
The project has seeing the establishment of the community peace building teams comprising of different gender groupings. The project activities are countering xenophobia and related protection problems in the following communities; Makause and Madala hostel, Alexander Township and Makause in Gauteng Province and Kwamashu and Isipingo in KwaZulu-Natal Province. The major aim of these activities; is to strengthen cooperation between key community actors in “hot-spot” communities, including community-based organization, migrant groups, and local political and traditional leaders; and to improve accountability for service delivery implementation.
Despite initial challenges in accessing hostels in Kwa-Mashu in Durban and Madala Hostel in Alexandara, Johannesburg, which remains complex and volatile, relationship building with strategic partners provided useful contacts who have made it possible for the project to kick-start. The Action Support Centre held an event at the Madala hostel together with the Community Leadership of Alexandra and the African Royal Houses inclusive of countries such as South Africa, Nigeria, Eritrea, Swaziland, Kenya, and Ethiopia in support of the effort to bring together what is perceived as two communities in one because of the previous political conflict that caused long term divisions to this region, many people are still afraid of the hostels and this has resulted in its isolation and inaccessibility to non-hostel residents. Project introduction, conflict mapping and needs assessment took off well and continued community engagements with various stakeholders from community leaders, specific groups of men, women and youth, which meet separately, have resulted in the program gaining momentum. During the conflict mapping exercise it was realized that both the local and migrants in Makause are facing challenges of lack of proper documentation and as such the ASC managed to engage with the Department of Home Affairs to visit the area to share information on how to get proper documents.
The project is currently looking forward to briefing all the four communities on the Action plans, which are supposed to help in preventing drivers of xenophobia. The most important thing for ASC is that peace builders get a chance to comment and contribute on what they want so that they take ownership of the process. Already the communities have proposed events that to bring together the targeted stakeholders in order to share a common platform for peace-building, which is a step towards rebuilding relationships and possible reconciliation process has started through this engagement since all attendees want to see united community.
ASC hopes that the Action plans will center on monitoring and reporting bias-motivated violence, including against migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers, by maintaining official systems of monitoring and public reporting to provide accurate data for informed policy decisions to combat such violence. ASC hopes to reach out to affected communities by conducting outreach and education efforts to communities and civil society groups—including those consisting of or working with migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, and stateless and internally displaced persons – in order to:
1) reduce fear and assist victims
2) advance police-community relations
3) encourage improved reporting of acts of bias-motivated violence to the police
4) improve the quality of data collection by law enforcement bodies. The planning for the event was inclusive of all and so this led to a success in response and positive environment that guaranteed a safe space for sharing and reflections.