Civil society works to combat xenophobia

Friday, July 9, 2010

Johannesburg - From soccer matches to marches; hotlines to prayers; civil society groups in South Africa are doing all in their power to prevent an outbreak of xenophobic attacks.

Civil society groups from across Gauteng, together with the South African Council of Churches, have put their heads and resources together to combat any threats of xenophobia once the World Cup has ended.

One of the initiatives they intend using to achieve this is a hotline for foreign nationals who are concerned about their safety.

The hotline number, which will be announced on Monday, will be directly linked to police in all nine provinces.

Warren Viljoen of the Humanitarian Assistance Network of South Africa (HANSA) said the hotline was established through a partnership between HANSA and Mthwakazi - an organisation that works with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

When the hotline is up and running on Monday, Mthwakazi will assess the calls it receives on the four lines available.

"Once the assessment has been made, the representative from Mthwakazi will then make direct contact with provincial and national police structures across the country. A report will be sent out and if need be, police will respond," Viljoen explained.

Mthwakazi will also immediately inform provincial disaster management services of the situation.

HANSA, on the other hand, will get in touch with all the relevant civil society organisations in the area that can offer assistance.

Other initiatives groups have already implemented to combat xenophobia include education drives at schools such as schoolchildren in Alexandra adopting an African country and then learning about that country's history, culture and challenges.

A soccer tournament, where one of the requirements was that each team had at least three foreign nationals in them, was another means organisations used to promote unity and acceptance.

Church groups are fighting xenophobia through dialogues with communities and prayer meetings.

Eddie Makue, general secretary of the South African Council of Churches, said that civil society wanted to be proactive and ensure that all foreign national in South Africa were safe.