Double dealings, deportations & simmering tensions between foreign nationals and South Africans

Opinion Piece

It is not to misuse Bertolt Brecht’s insight nor an exaggeration to point out that the animal that gave birth to the 2008 xenophobic violence is in heat again. According to recent media reports, the residents of Alexandra—where the 2008 xenophobic violence started, are threatening to violently evict foreigners from the houses they claim should be theirs.  In 2008 the residents had initiated pogroms against foreign national under the pretense that they were carrying out a legitimate community intervention to control the rising tide of crime, which they blamed foreigners for.

What is different this time around is that residents are bold and speak freely about the threat of xenophobic violence. According to the Sowetan, the residents have put up posters warning foreigners to vacate RDP houses in extension 10 of Alexandra. It is also reported that threatening letters and pamphlets have been delivered to the houses occupied by foreign national.  The Sowetan reports that one of the letters warns that: “We demand that you vacate at your own free will without being pushed like animals or aliens”.

What makes the situation dangerously volatile is that these threats against foreign nationals are being made when the moratorium on deporting undocumented Zimbabweans has been lifted by the Department of Home Affairs (DHA). Whether these two developments are related remains a moot point. It is however worth pointing out that the xenophobic attacks of 2008 could have, in many cases, been triggered by the raids of immigration officials. Hence PASSOP is concerned that immigration raids have the potential to serve as a catalyst to a new round of violent xenophobic attacks à la 2008 pogroms.

It is unclear if the DHA has observed this frightening pattern. What is crystal clear though is that since the lifting of the moratorium on deporting undocumented Zimbabweans, there has been an increase in the number of immigration raids all over the country. For instance, in Cape Town mothers with little children are being arrested without warning, detained and deported. Since there is no deportation centre in Cape Town, this means that once arrested in immigration raids, deportees are held with hardened criminals in Pollsmoor prison.

It is a human rights violation to detain refugees and migrants in a place like Pollsmoor prison where hardened criminals who have committed crimes such as murder and rape are imprisoned. Additionally, Pollsmoor prison is chronically overcrowded, documented to be a site of mass rape of inmates by members of prison gangs, and does not meet any of the minimum standards of temporary detention for ‘illegal foreigners’.

Further, it reveals mala fides on the part of the South African government that the moratorium was lifted when the Zimbabwe Dispensation Project (ZDP) is incomplete. Research shows that “as of October 4, 145 000 permits were dispatched of 275 762 that were received, though processing was still taking place.” Additionally, the South Africa’s director-general of home affairs, Mkuseli Apleni, gave his word to parliament that deportations would not resume until the ZDP was completed.

What has changed now?

Press Statement: PASSOP and ZEF lodge complaint with Parliamentary Portfolio Committee about DG Apleni

 Joint Press Statement (PASSOP and ZEF)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Complaint lodged with the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee for Home Affairs after Director General Apleni misled Parliament and Civil Society

PASSOP and ZEF are extremely concerned about the lack of transparency of the Director General of Home Affairs in his engagements with both parliament and civil society. We believe that accountability in governance is essential and request that the Portfolio Committee intervene.

We cannot believe that the same week that the Director General briefed the Committee on the Zimbabwean Documentation Project, he failed to mention that he was about to sign a Directive that ordered the resumption of deportations of Zimbabweans. This Directive essentially ended a moratorium on deportations of Zimbabweans and authorized the first sizable deportations of Zimbabweans in over two years.

We expect transparency and honesty from the Department of Home Affairs. After fully reviewing the meeting’s minutes and transcripts, we believe that the Director General has misled parliament and civil society. To this end, we have lodged a complaint and requested to meet the Committee to discuss the matter.

Furthermore, there is an urgent need for the Director General to convene a meeting of stakeholders as soon as possible in order to explain the decision that was taken.

The moratorium on deportation was introduced on the realisation that it was not tenable to forcibly return Zimbabweans to Zimbabwe because of the socio-economic and political environment prevailing there. This environment has since not been adequately resolved; therefore PASSOP and ZEF’s position is that it is ill-advised and premature to recommence deportations at this time. Both civil society organisations and the Zimbabwean government are not in a position to deal with the large human rights and humanitarian costs that the resumption of deportations brings about.  Already about 600 Zimbabweans have been deported in the first two days alone last week.

The letter sent to the Portfolio Committee can be downloaded here.

For comment or more information, please contact: Braam Hanekom (0843191764) or Gabriel Shumba ( 0726393795).

Press Statement: Job seekers, COSATU Young Workers Forum (Western Cape) and PASSOP lodge human rights complaint against BP

Press Statement

For Immediate Release

Job seekers, COSATU Young Workers Forum (Western Cape) and PASSOP lodge human rights complaint against BP 

Affected job seeking immigrants, leadership of COSATU YWF and PASSOP will at 2 PM today submit a human rights commission complaint against BP for allowing inhumane treatment and behavior at their Salt River circle BP garage. Additional to this complaint, a complaint of xenophobia will be laid, because it was observed that the BP garage in question targeted immigrants.

Representatives will hand over photos and video footage on behalf of the many job seekers affected.

Background:

On the morning of Wednesday the 12th of October leadership of COSATU YWF discovered that feaces were smeared on a picket fence and on the street in front of the BP garage in Salt River. The low picket fence was where immigrant job seekers sit daily, and they observed that the job seekers were on the opposite side of the road as a result of the stench. They were informed that only the picket fence on the roadside where immigrant job seekers wait was smeared.  It was noted that sadly the job seekers from South Africa and immigrant job seekers waited on different sides of the BP garage.

Following their observation COSATU YWF organized a small team to investigate the incident. PASSOP representatives and some of the job seekers teamed up and gathered information. It was found that the “head of security” instructed that the smearing be done and the team was told it was done with the “full knowledge of BP management”. It was also found that this was not the first time this had been done, despite complaints. Several job seekers, aided by COSATU YWF and PASSOP, are lodging a complaint with the human rights commission today at 2pm.

For more information please contact:

Lazola Pukwana (COSATU YWF Coordinator)  0735857241

Braam Hanekom (PASSOP)  0843191764

Press Statement: PASSOP urges all foreigners to cooperate in the 2011 Census

PRESS STATEMENT

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

PASSOP urges all foreigners to cooperate in the 2011 Census

PASSOP regrets the recent decision by the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) to lift the moratorium on deportations of undocumented Zimbabweans (particularly the unaccountable and underhand manner in which it was done). However, we fully appreciate the importance of the Census 2011 gathering accurate statistics and would like to urge all foreigners, whether documented or undocumented, to come forward and be counted.

We have recently seen the DHA claim that the majority of undocumented Zimbabweans were documented under the Zimbabwean Documentation Project (ZDP) (which the Department is now referring to as the Documentation of Zimbabweans Project (DZP)). However, the DZP was highly criticized by some organisations who claimed that the vast majority of undocumented Zimbabweans were not given an opportunity to apply. Whichever the case, what is certain is that there are currently no accurate statistics for the number of immigrants in South Africa and this is therefore subject to much debate. We must all try our best to assist in establishing how many people are living in South Africa.

It is unfortunate that the DHA chosen this time to restart the deportation of Zimbabweans, the first time in over two years that Zimbabweans will be deported, as it undermines this effort.

Following our concern we have gotten assurances from the Statistician General of Stats SA, Mr. Pali Lehohla, that under no circumstances would the gathering of data for the census be used as a tool in deporting undocumented foreigners. No Census 2011 volunteer wearing a yellow Stats SA shirt, carry a Census ID card identifying him/herself appropriately should be viewed as a threat to undocumented foreigners. None of the specific information that is taken will be released to immigration officials.

Ultimately, it is in the interest of undocumented immigrants and of government for South Africa to have accurate statistics on the number of foreigners in the country.  If you are not counted, you might not count!

For comment please call:  Nonki Simakade (0768862738) or Bernard Toyambi (0731219625).

Press Statement: Susan Press Conference

PASSOP is holding Press Conference with ‘Susan Forgives’ at 3pm at IDASA House today, Monday October 10th, 2011.

Press Release – For Immediate Release

CAPE TOWN – In light of the huge costs ahead faced by acid attack victim, “Susan Forgives”, PASSOP and an event company, “Someone’s Getting Fired”, have organised a fundraising event to take place at the Jade Bar and Lounge on Wednesday the 12th of October.

A press conference will be held today at 3pm at IDASA House, 6 Spin St. Cape Town. “Susan” will be in attendance and will give an update on her progress over the last few weeks. Jack Mantis, a local musician who is playing for free in this fundraising event and members of his band will also be present.

We are appealing for support from the media in raising awareness about the event.

For more information please call Chandra Frank 0730551564 Arafat Matovu 0721554147

September Newsletter Now Available!

The latest edition of PASSOP Watch, our monthly newsletter, is now available. It includes stories on a women’s rights workshop we recently held in Masiphumelele, a CV database that is now available on our website, the appointment of a new PASSOP Ambassador, a protest against Swaziland’s monarchy, an update on the Zimbabwean Dispensation Project, and several refugee stories. Click here to view the newsletter.

Press Statement: Protest against xenophobic attacks

Immigrants and South Africans protesting outside court hearing of group arrested for the xenophobic attacks

Monday 10 Oct, 2011; 9am-10am, Seshego Magistrates Court, Polokwane

“We want peace but we also want justice.”

The group on trial, which includes ANC ward councillor, Mrs Tebogo Mojapelo, will be attending their second court hearing. We recognise that the provincial ANC has taken the matter seriously and spoken out, although we had hoped that she would be suspended- until she is either cleared or found guilty.

The horrific violence that occurred led to the displacement of hundreds of Zimbabweans and to the death of at least one person. It was a sad day in which the founding values of the new South Africa were undermined and the spirit of Ubuntu was completely ignored.

We know that the people of Limpopo, Polokwane and specifically those of Seshego have in the past resisted turning on their neighbors and thus hope that the perpetrators who provoked their community are dealt with. They have tarnished the image of not just Seshego but the whole country. We trust that the law will protect those who are innocent, but in turn hold criminals who are guilty to account.

Sadly, despite the ANC stating, “the courts would decide on their councilor’s guilt or innocence”, many ANC members in ANC t-shirts protested outside in the councillors support. We believe that no ANC members should be wearing t-shirts and openly supporting her, as this creates the impression that the ANC has either decided on her innocence or the ANC is standing by her- even if found guilty. This is serious cause for concern, as she is the third case of an ANC councilor being implicated-following those in De Doorns and a case in Durban.

We believe that the ANC has done much work against xenophobia and violence against foreigners, but hope that they ensure that there are no members publicly supporting those accused of xenophobic, violence against foreigners or afrophobic attacks.

We trust that the police have put together a strong case and that the justice system will show that violence against any people will not be tolerated.

The protest is being organised by VOM and PASSOP

For more information of media enquiries please contact:(VOM) Elvis Anusa 078 604 2286 and (PASSOP) Langton Miriyoga 084026965

DHA responds to PASSOP statement on deportations

The Spokesperson of the Department of Home Affairs, Ronnie Mamoepa, today issued a press statement in response to PASSOP’s press statement yesterday about the lifting of the moratorium on deportation of Zimbabweans. The statement, which is entitled “PASSOP must stop pretending to be spokesperson of Zimbabweans living in South Africa” (see below for full statement), attacks PASSOP and defends the DHA’s right to deport people, but it does not deny any of the claims that we made in our statement yesterday.

The fact that the DHA did not deny any of the claims made in our statement confirms that the DHA has indeed lifted the almost 3-year old moratorium on the deportation of Zimbabweans. We regret that the statement attacks PASSOP, when all we did was shed light on what is going on and raise our concerns about it.

PASSOP does not ‘pretend to be the spokesperson of Zimbabweans living in South Africa’. We don’t ‘pretend’ to be anything. What we are is a human rights organisation whose mission and purpose it is to protect and promote the rights of all refugees, asylum-seekers and immigrants in this country.

We believe that deportation, irrespective of whether the migrant is from Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda or any other country, is an inhumane and un-African practice. It is our role as a civil society organisation to hold the government to account when we feel that it is falling short in its treatment of this constituency. The secretive manner with which the Department has now moved to lift the moratorium on deportations of Zimbabweans is not acceptable.

Not only is the lack of transparency and lack of consultation disturbing, but it also comes at a sensitive time, both domestically and internationally. Domestically, we feel that it will undermine the efforts of Stats SA to conduct the first full Census in ten years. Internationally, we feel that the situation in Zimbabwe is still unresolved and too fragile to justify deporting people back there.

Let us be clear about this, when we stand against deportations, we are speaking not of criminals, but of hard-working mothers and fathers who have been forced to flee their home countries in order to be able to provide their children with food and safety.

See below for the statement released by the Department of Home Affairs:

MEDIA RELEASE

PASSOP MUST STOP PRETENDING TO BE SPOKESPERSON OF ZIMBABWEANS LIVING IN SOUTH AFRICA

Pretoria – The Department of Home Affairs has noted the statement by PASSOP regarding the deportation of illegal Zimbabwean nationals. It is our belief that PASSOP must stop pretending to be the spokesperson of Zimbabweans living in South Africa.

The majority of Zimbabweans living in South Africa are law-abiding citizens who have done everything in their power to regularise their stay in South Africa by taking advantage of the Zimbabwean documentation project. This they did to comply with South Africa’s immigration laws which are in line with international protocols and conventions governing immigration.

In this regard, these Zimbabweans nationals speak for themselves through the established Home Affairs-Zimbabwe Stakeholder Forum, a mechanism created to regulate interaction between the Department of Home Affairs and representatives of various Zimbabwean organisations including the Zimbabwean Embassy and Consulate based in South Africa.

The mandate of the Department of Home Affairs arising from our national constitution remains the need to manage immigration securely and efficiently within the laws of the Republic.

In this regard, no country in the world will allow illegal immigration within its borders. This is international practice. This however does not detract from the need to protect the rights of refugees and asylum seekers in line with our international obligations.

Accordingly, those Zimbabweans living in South Africa and had applied for the regularisation of their stay through the Zimbabwean Documentation Project have nothing to fear. Nobody who has applied for the regularisation of their stay in South Africa will be subject to deportation as their stay is protected in our rules and regulations.

However, those who did not take advantage of the regularisation project including those who continue to undermine South Africa’s immigration laws by entering the country illegally cannot claim protection of the country’s rules and regulations governing the regularisation of Zimbabweans living in South Africa.

Issued by Ronnie Mamoepa at 082-990-4853

Department of Home Affairs

Press Statement: DHA begins deportations

Press Statement for Immediate Release

PASSOP EXTREMELY CONCERNED ABOUT DEPORTATION OF ZIMBABWEANS

“SA CENSUS UNDERMINED, STABILTY THREATENED”

Despite no formal confirmation, public admission or statement from the Department of Home Affairs, PASSOP regrets to inform media, the public and Zimbabweans that we are now convinced that the Department of Home Affairs has lifted South Africa’s moratorium on deporting Zimbabweans. 

The deportation of Zimbabweans resumes at a very sensitive time, with revelations in recent months of abuse of asylum seekers at refugee reception centers compromising their right to apply for refugee status. It also begins in direct contradiction to the recent undertakings made by the Department of Home Affair’s Director General, Mr Apleni, while addressing the Parliamentary Portfolio committee for Home Affairs, not to embark on deportations of Zimbabweans until the Zimbabwean Documentation Project has been completed, appeals reviewed and the minister approved deportations.

We are also extremely concerned that efforts to get clarity around the number of people in South Africa are being undermined by this latest move by Department of Home Affairs.  Despite PASSOP being reassured by South Africa’s Statistician-General, Mr Pali Lehohla, that it will be safe for all immigrants to participate in the census, the Department of Home Affairs has taken a seemingly unilateral decision. Fear and paranoia have begun among immigrants. It is obvious that sadly many immigrants in South Africa will ‘go underground’ into hiding and be unwilling to open doors to officials conducting the census.

Despite PASSOP having undertaken to encourage all immigrants, documented and undocumented, to participate and be counted, we can no longer do so as deportations are increasing at this very important time.

PASSOP believes that the positive and genuine reassurances from the S.G. cannot reassure immigrants that they will not be arrested and deported during the census, because Home Affairs will not only continue deporting immigrants, but will also begin deportations of all undocumented Zimbabweans for the first time in two years.

The number of immigrants living in South Africa has been subject to much speculation. In particular the number of Zimbabweans has been a hotly contested: while the Department has claimed that the vast majority had been documented in the recent Zimbabwean Documentation Project, many civil society organizations, including the IOM, IDASA House and Human Rights Watch have claimed that there could be as many as 1.5 million Zimbabweans in South Africa.

This latest move will continue to obscure the actual number of Zimbabweans living in South Africa. South Africa will have to keep depending on deportation numbers and estimates hence forth, as surely undocumented Zimbabweans will not answer doors to be counted and will do everything they can to avoid arrest and deportation.

We were overjoyed with news of the Departments’ recent and successful audit. The Department made South Africa proud, but sadly while we were enjoying the good news, and the Department getting its hard-earned positive publicity, the Department quietly put into motion the processes for Zimbabwean deportations.

PASSOP believes that increased deportations threaten stability in South African communities, with increased xenophobic and “Afrophobic” tensions a predictable result and the possibility of communities “witch hunting”, with neighbors turning on their neighbors, South Africans turning on fellow Africans.

We believe that deportation is an Apartheid tendency and that deportations of fellow Africans is un-African.

We also believe that the situation in Zimbabwe is not resolved and this move will put immense pressure on Zimbabwe.

For comment, please contact:  Braam Hanekom (0843191764) or Langton Miriyoga (0840269658)