Migrants to start a Local Peace Committee

The ACTION Support Centre held a Local Peace Committee (LPC) workshop at Yeoville on the 6th of July, which was attended by students, academia, and government officials. Although there were few South Africans that attended, it was a very interesting workshop as everyone who was present participated actively in the exercises, particularly the Ubuntu exercise where the participants had to define and explain their own understanding of Ubuntu as Africans. One of the attendees said “Ubuntu is a set of human values that make humans to be a human being; it separates humans from animals”. This definition steered a discussion on Xenophobia attacks as to how are South Africans showing their human value of Ubuntu when they attack other human beings. Questions were raised on where is humanity when other humans are burnt alive? One of the Congolese citizens reminded the participants that all the fellow brothers and sisters seem to forget that Xenophobia is not only in South Africa and it did not begin here as foreigners are also under attack in many other countries. The point was to desist from such behaviour.

Simon Kobedi, the ASC team member, shared tools of conflict transformation and a very interesting story which was part of the exercise, which was a challenging one, but participants did very well. Some participants from foreign countries pleaded with South Africa to assist them so that they can reside together because in their own countries they are facing economic and political challenges. One student contributed that South Africa should be grateful and help foreign nationals because for them to enjoy the liberation struggle they have today it is because of other African countries that helped them during apartheid.

Language is usually a barrier for many migrants; and in South Africa the Zulu language is the dominant language. One group presented that South Africans sometimes assume that when you are black then you must know how to speak Zulu, they come and approach you using the Zulu language and when they realize that you do not speak Zulu, their approach and behaviour towards you changes and this kind of behaviour happens everywhere even when you go to a police station or hospital. Such institutions do not treat South Africans and migrants the same. At the discussion ACTION Support Centre was encouraged to have a French translator because some people who had attended the meeting did not even understand English.

A great concern by the participants who had attended and who were also migrants was that they were not sure of the difference they would make for them as foreigners if they joined an LPC in South African communities. However, the ASC member Pretty Mncube, assured migrants them that being part of the LPC will give migrants a voice to speak and communicate with other South Africans on how they can live in peace with each other and be able to tell their stories which could teach and help South Africans understand the reason why they come to South Africa. Moreover they will be able to get direct information from Government officials at Home Affairs because the LPCs work closely with the Home Affairs. This clarification gave them an understanding on why migrants would be an integral part of LPC. Lesson learnt was that migrants will also represent some of them in their communities and it also gave them hope that one day they will live in peace without fear in South Africa, after all they are brothers and sisters and Africa is their motherland.