By More Matshediso
Pretoria-Leaders of different organisations representing foreign nationals who live in South Africa say most of their members migrate to the country because they know their lives will be well-protected than in their countries of origin.
They said this on Friday after a day-long meeting with President Jacob Zuma in Pretoria. The meeting was called by the president to discussed issues relating to the recent wave of attacks on foreign nationals.
Frank Ntwali of Rwanda High Commission and Refuge Affairs in South Africa said that in some cases, people from other African countries do not leave their countries by choice, but because their lives are threatened by the state of politics and lack of democracy.
Ntwali said South Africa is the first country that comes to many Africans' minds when they flee from their countries. This is because, he said, South Africa has laws that will safeguard and protect them.
The meeting was attended by over 50 representatives from various organisations representing foreign nationals in South Africa. The team committed to working together with government to resolve the issues amongst South Africans and non-South Africans, and would ensure that the attacks on foreign nationals do not happen again.
President Zuma said the meeting was called to accommodate suggestions of foreign nationals affected by the recent attacks.
“As government, we believe in dealing with the challenges we face together. Therefore, we called this meeting so we can discuss and involve organisations representing foreign nationals in South Africa in finding collective solutions so that these attacks do not happen again.
“We have to ensure that permanent solutions are found, so that all our people can continue to live side by side together like we have done for years,” said President Zuma.
World surprised and worried by attacks
He said the world has been worried, surprised and shocked by what happened in the country recently, but added that the manner in which the attacks were handled by government also showed where the country stands on the matter.
“South Africa is a democratic country. The reason why our brothers and sisters from other countries would jump other countries and come to South Africa is because they believe there is protection in our country, coming out of our constitution and laws,” said the President.
He said leaders who attended the meeting also acknowledged that South Africa is a country that, when things go wrong, addresses issues and exercises what is written in the constitution.
Amongst the suggestions made during the meeting were that the South African government should consider developing an anti-xenophobia campaign, which can be actively promoted in communities. The campaign should educate and discourage any xenophobic attitudes. The integration of forein nationals into local communities should be a process championed by government working with all organisations in the country.
Another suggestion was that the government should also promote social cohesion through programmes and campaigns across all races. Social cohesion programmes should involve organisations representing foreign nationals. The government should consider using sporting codes to promote social cohesion and integration. Government should consider reconciliation programme before reintegration process can take place.
The leaders of various international organisations said the South African Police Service must treat all citizens as equals and investigate all cases presented before them including by foreign nationals.
They feel that foreign nationals living in South Africa should contribute to the development of communities in which they live in.
Other suggestions also included that government considers the standardisation of labour practices, so that employers can be forced not to employ cheap labour and exploit people. The standardisation will ensure that all employees both nationals and non-nationals compete equally for jobs.
The leaders expressed satisfaction over the establishment of the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on migration and looked forward to the outcome of its work.
Report on 2008 cases
Minister in the Presidency, Jeff Radebe, also attended the meeting and gave a report on cases and convictions from the 2008 attacks on foreign nationals.
He said in the period between January 2008 until 2009, a total of 79 cases were brought before the courts and 132 convictions were achieved.
Minister Radebe said in total, the courts meted out 140 years of sentences against the accused.
“These cases are a clear demonstration that government is committed to bringing perpetrators of attacks on foreign nationals to book. It is further demonstration that government takes these attacks seriously and that action has been taken since the 2008 attacks,” said Minister Radebe.-SAnews.gov.za