In April South Africa was shocked by an upsurge in violence directed at immigrants, starting in Durban and spreading to parts of Johannesburg. We sprung into action to address the violence on our doorstep through marches, campaigns and critical meetings. We also travelled to Mozambique, where crucial but often un-noticed peace work is going on, and Gulu in Uganda, where the community is setting up an early warning-response system. Though the particulars of each context vary, a common thread in the form of a need for people-centred approaches, and the drive for unity and collaboration run through all contexts. Finally, our team in Johannesburg has undergone some changes, with several new welcomes and one goodbye.
Calls for a united Africa
NGOs, government, civil society organisations and activists in South Africa have joined together over the last month to stand against xenophobic sentiment. The ASC has issued a statement, adding it’s voice to the many calling for peace and inclusion, with a reminder that “The African spirit of Ubuntu requires a collective responsibility to respect life, and appreciation of our rich diversity. Xenophobic violence and attitudes threatens African unity and solidarity.”
During May, which is Africa Month, all Africans regardless of race, class, or creed are encouraged to celebrate their cultural traditions in the wider context of the great diversity of cultures, beliefs and traditions that make up the continent of Africa. Therefore, through the Proudly African Campaign and the African Solidarity Caravan, the team has devised initiatives to continue with anti-xenophobic messages during Africa month. There will be a solidarity walk and street festival on Saturday 23rd of May, preceded by a School’s Seminar on the 21st and a Public Discussion on the 22ndth, all of which will emphasize the need for collaborating under the banner of united Africa. These events will take place in Johannesburg, South Africa, but partner events are also being planned by local partners in other African countries.
These events will build on the momentum generated by other initiatives that have been taking place over the last month. One of these was the People’s March against Xenophobia in South Africa, for which we organized a large party of campaigners, complete with hand-painted placards and banners. It was an inspiring 5km march which saw people of all races and nationalities joining hands and denouncing xenophobic attacks in creative variety of ways.
We have also been working directly with the Local Peace Committee in Alexandra, Johannesburg, who have been assisting attacked migrants. Also in Alexandra, we took part in a South African Police Service Law enforcement Imbizo against xenophobia in the township. The Alexandra community disassociated itself from violence against migrants and shared that they recognized that the attacks against migrants was not the solution to social and economic problems. The community called for dialogue and commended SAPS for arresting those who were engaging in criminal activities that resulted in the death of Emmanuel Sithole in Alexandra. In a display of solidarity, the SAPS MEC for Community Safety, Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane and ambassadors from African countries including Burundi, Nigeria and Kenya, were present at the event and commended government’s efforts to address the attacks.
The ASC also contributed to a meeting planned by one of our strategic partners, the City of Johannesburg. The meeting was a counter xenophobia response developed in collaboration with the stakeholders from government and civil society, and presented to the Johannesburg Migration Advisory Council. Short-term interventions that were proposed were law enforcement, mobilization of society and visible political leadership. The intended effects were mobilising community support, morale and political leadership in times of trouble and proactive policing. Long-term interventions were mass education, bylaw, migrant desk capacitation, coordination of interventions in Johannesburg, displaced persons social relief, and post-conflict reintegration.
These efforts have been complemented by others directed more broadly at transcending the literal and conceptual boundaries that threaten the collective potential of Africa. We share with you the call made by Africa Speaks to “restrain from calling our African brothers and sisters Foreign Nationals” as an “African Man can’t be called a Foreign National in the soil of Africa”. In a similar drive for a united Africa, ACT AFRICA PLATFORM (AAP) has issued a petition calling for 20 million signatures in support of the integration of Africa, starting with the implementation of policies and processes that will allow freedom of movement across the continent.
We hear calls like this from all around Africa that are seeking to bring peace through a collective approach; for example, the new 5 year plan in Mozambique echoes this sentiment with its call for “friendship, solidarity, inclusion, mutual respect, tolerance and peaceful co- existence, and of continually valuing cultural and ideological diversity as the basis for building an ever stronger and more cohesive Mozambican nation”. ASC Steering Committee members Richard and Jacinta met in Mozambique to explore the potential for a social cohesion programme, and to revisit the work with our partner, Propaz, who are involved in initiatives to reconcile ex-combatants.
A follow up trip was also made to Gulu, in Uganda, to facilitate an analysis and planning process aimed at laying the foundation for a multi-stakeholder early warning system. An elicitive process was used to identify the root drivers of conflict that could inform such a system, which incuded breakdown of family cohesion, unresolved land disputes and discrimination and stigmatization. This project is part of the Making All Voices Count research project, “From Early Warning to Response in Preventing Violence: Transforming Conflict through Citizen Engagement”. Also on this project, Lerato attended the regular MAVC Community of Practice meetings in Johannesburg, which focused on “Participatory governance as a mechanism for addressing inequality in Africa”, including ways to understand inequality and the need for civil society and government to find ways to collaborate on efforts to reduce inequality.
Our team has undergone some changes over the last month, with the addition of 5 interns. We’re pleased to have Alisha, Esteri and Kgalalelo on board for the duration of the year, and Bruna and Philip will be with us for 2 months from the University of Edinburgh. Amidst all the welcomes there was also a farewell to be said. Lerato completed her last month with us in April after a fruitful 2 years with the ASC. We will miss her, but wish her all the best for the future!