27 June 2011

Zimbabwe: SA Probes Xenophobic Attacks On Zimbabweans

Photo: Dylan Thomas / UKaid / Department for International Development
The border from Zimbabwe into South Africa.

Polokwane — THE South African Limpopo provincial government has set up a team to investigate and deal with issues of xenophobic attacks against Zimbabweans that occurred last week.

It also emerged that about 28 Zimbabweans - among them toddlers - have sought refuge at Seshego Police Station, while unconfirmed reports indicate that over 1 000 of them were hiding in the bushes.

The attacks, which claimed the life of a Zimbabwean, Godfrey Sibanda who was stoned to death by rowdy youths led by ANC councillor Tebogo Mojapilo, has left many Zimbabweans in Seshego, northwest of Polokwane, living in fear.

Houses belonging to Zimbabweans were torched during the skirmishes.

Twelve suspects - including the councillor - have since been arrested in connection with the attacks and were granted R600 bail each by the Polokwane Magistrates' Court.

They will appear in court on August 16 for trial.

The task team, which was created on Monday last week and chaired by Colonel Frank Ngobeni of the South African police services, comprises stakeholders from Red Cross, South African police, Polokwane Disaster Committee, UN Human Rights Commission and Capricorn District Management.

Red Cross society's Capricorn district branch co-ordina-tor, Mr Alphens Mabina, said the issue facing the Zimba-bweans needed a multi-sectoral approach adding that they were working towards finding a lasting solution.

He said: "With the assistance of the Limpopo provincial government, we have come up with a task team to investigate and work towards finding a solution to the problems facing foreign nationals in this city.

"We are actually surprised by such an act. We didn't expect such unruly behaviour considering that we are all Africans and this place is for all who want to live in it.

"At the moment we are keeping the affected families at Seshego Police Station where a number of organisations have donated food, clothing and blankets.

"The task team is working towards integrating them into the community and so far the UN Refugee centre in Musina has indicated that they are willing to facilitate transportation to either Zimbabwe or Musina refugee centre to those willing.

"We hope to arrive at a solution soon and as the Red Cross Society we don't condone such behaviour. You will realise that we are always on constant touch with our volunteers in these affected areas to check on the situation there every day.

"It has also emerged that the majority of these victims had their travel documents and other valuables burnt and destroyed during the disturbances and we are willing to assist them to apply for asylum at the Home Affairs department if they so wish" he said.

Seshego police spokesman, Warrant Officer Mathomane Molefo, said they had

deployed enough manpower to monitor the situation in the area.

"The situation has calmed down but we are not taking any chances. We will continue to engage the community and the victims in a bid to ensure that these people live in harmony.

"This is an act by overzealous criminals and is short of anything next to xenophobia. We have a number of anti crime awareness campaigns around the town that are in progress and we believe this will go a long way in solving this problem.

"Unfortunately, we don't have the requisite shelter to keep these victims here for good and we have agreed as the task team that by 15 July we must have quelled the situation", he said.

He said they also had a challenge in repatriating Godfrey Sibanda's body to Zimbabwe as his relatives had no capacity and the Zimbabwe Consulate had indicated they had no budget to that effect.

Meanwhile, Limpopo ANC has since denounced that attacks on foreigners, saying they should be condemned.

In a statement last Friday, the ANC provincial spokesperson, Mr David Masondo, said: "The ANC notes the arrest of our ward councilor in Seshego, whom it is alleged has been involved in the attacks of Zimbabwean nationals. The ANC upholds the principle of innocent until proven guilty. For this reason, the charged councilor remains innocent until the court of law finds the councillor guilty. We reiterate that no one is above the law and any person, including our ANC members, found violating the law should be punished accordingly. We call on our communities not to the law onto their hands," he said

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