Violence against Foreign Nationals Committee programme, 2008 Parliamentary Task Team Report follow-up, 2015 Xenophobia Developments

Ad Hoc Joint Committee on Probing Violence Against Foreign Nationals

12 June 2015
Chairperson: Ms N Bhengu (ANC) and Mr T Motlashuphing (ANC, North West)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee met to look at the draft programme of the Committee. There was debate on who the Committee should meet with in order to give a “potent” report with real solutions so that there would never be attacks again. The Committee though they wanted to be inclusive of all relevant groups, institutions and individuals was weary of duplicating work already done by other departments, committees and ministries.

In order to give effect to the plans and the programme of the Committee, there were two reports from the 2008 task team and the 2015 report giving progress done and steps taken by government.

The reports went into detail about the recommendations of the 2008 Parliamentary Task Team, and what had happened in April 2015 and the proposed way forward. The reports were found to be enlighten and very informative for the Committee, they put a lot of issues into perspective of the work that needed to be done.

Meeting report

The Chairperson opened the first meeting of the Committee. It was noted that the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) Members could not join the meeting as they were dealing with NCOP business.

Terms of Reference
Mr T Motlashuphing (ANC, North West) took the Committee through the Terms of Reference of probing violence against foreign nationals as agreed by both Houses. What the Committee needed to consider was the deadline given to the Committee by both Houses and doing justice to the work at hand without duplicating the work done in 2008. The objective of the Committee was so that these incidents should never occur again. The concentration of the Committee could not only be on Gauteng and KwaZulu Natal.

Reading of the Terms of Reference
Subject to the concurrence of the National Council of Provinces and the National Assembly, an Ad Hoc Committee to inquire into the incidents of violence against foreign nationals and related matters while incorporating into its work -
1) The recommendations and engagements of the previous task team in probing the violence and attacks against foreign nationals.
2) Make recommendations where applicable.
3) Exercise those powers as set out in joint rule 32 that may assist in carrying out its current task.
4) This Committee must consist of 11 Members of the National Assembly as follows:
- ANC (6)
- DA (2)
- EFF (1) 
- Other parties (2)
- Nine Members of the National Council of Provinces.
5) The deadline set for the final report was 30 August 2015.

Consideration of draft Committee Programme
Mr Adam Salmon, Content Advisor, went through the draft programme which was informed by the 2008 report as well the developments in 2015.

Adv K Mpumlwana (ANC) was concerned that there were no interactions with local communities; there was only mention of non-governmental organisations and migrant organisations.

Mr R Chance (DA) said the revised dates were not suitable for him as he would be overseas on official business. He agreed that the Committee needed to speak to people on the ground and get their views. Also confining the visits to Gauteng and KwaZulu Natal was problematic.

Mr Salmon pointed out that it may be difficult to find a period where everyone was available; the Committee had 22 Members from two Houses.

Ms L Dlamini (ANC, Mpumalanga) said that local government was missing from the interactions. She proposed that the Committee consider meeting businesses as most of the issues raised were economic related. The Committee should also consider meeting the embassies of the countries affected.

Mr Salmon said some of the community engagements had already happened; hence they were not reflected on the new programme. Meetings were arranged with migrant communities and representatives of those communities in Johannesburg during the proposed oversight visits. The local engagement would be there in Gauteng and KwaZulu Natal with both communities and community representatives.

The businesses and the embassies would also be considered. However, according to the terms of reference the emphasis was on assessing what had already been done and looking at addressing outstanding issues in the 2008 report.

Mr S Motau (DA) echoed the comments about meeting with local communities, but the Committee needed to take into account that there was already work done on and documented by the 2008 task team. The work of the Committee should not be prolonged thus delaying the process of coming back to Parliament with potent recommendations to ensure this did not happen again. The task of the Committee was to understand the genesis of the problem, to see where we went wrong as a country and what should be done.

Mr Salmon said that to cover more provinces would depend on the time to do the report, however due to the current time constraints the focus should be on the main areas (these being KwaZulu Natal and Gauteng).

The Chairperson commented that some Members sat in other Committees that interacted with communities regarding this matter. She asked that Members be given an opportunity to discuss the dates of the oversight visits and where they would be visiting.

Mr Chance proposed that the Committee return to the original dates of the programme, though there was a sitting in the House, it was not uncommon for Members to miss a sitting.

Ms Dlamini said the NCOP had an important sitting on 24 June 2015 to consider the budget, all NCOP members would not be available. Adv Mpumlwana added that the week of 22 June was also a very important week for the National Assembly.

The Chairperson said if there was going to be oversight in the Western Cape, Gauteng and KwaZulu Natal the Committee could use the original dates of 22 and 23 June 2015 and do the Western Cape. Then go to the other provinces in the week that was suggested (13 to 17 July 2015).

Mr Chance said he was fine with the proposed dates of 6 to10 July.

The Committee agreed to the dates, there would be oversight on 22 and 23 June in the Western Cape and from 6 to 10 July the Committee would visit Gauteng and KwaZulu Natal.

Mr Chance said he could not guarantee his attendance.

The Chairperson said it would not serve any purpose for the Committee to rush its work simply to meet the deadline of Parliament, she asked the Members to elaborate on the proposed relevant structures the Committee should meet with.

Mr Motau said the Committee needed adequate time to do its job, however they should also be careful of growing the scope too wide to the point where there was duplication of work. Regarding meeting with community organisations, the Committee needed to narrow it down to specific entities.

The Chairperson asked Adv Mpumlwana to unpack the interaction with locals he proposed.

Adv Mpumlwana said the Committee was visiting urban areas, so they could call town hall meetings in communities.

Ms Dlamini proposed that the Committee make use of the Office of the Speaker in municipalities. There was a public participation office and they knew how to organise communities for consultation purposes. As the legislature, it would be appropriate to work through the municipalities to assist in this regard.

The Chairperson said she had received a letter from the president of an association for spaza shops, tuck shops and taverns in her capacity as the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Small Business Development. There had been a planned oversight visit in November 2014 but unfortunately it did not happen. By the time the Committee met with them in January/February 2015, the xenophobic attacks had already happened in Gauteng. Based on this existing relationship with the group, the Chairperson proposed that the Committee meet with them.

Before the 2008 xenophobic attacks, under the umbrella of the South African National Civic Organisation (SANCO) there were meetings with the business sector of the Western Cape, they were complaining about being marginalised by foreign national business owners. The Chairperson proposed that they meet with them as well.

Mr Motau endorsed the proposals by the Chairperson. These were identifiable entities, the Committee should pursue them in order to hone in on organisations and institutions that could give the Committee the substance that it needs.

Adv Mpumlwana was still concerned that the proposal may leave out ordinary people.

The Chairperson said it did not; Ms Dlamini had identified how the Committee would get participation from ordinary people via the public participation office in municipalities. 

Mr Motlashuping asked what the methodology would be to hold meetings with embassies.

Ms Dlamini said she would narrow it down to Africa for now as majority of the people affected were Africans. In terms of coordination, the Committee would have to decide if they did  this at a national level and used the Ministry or at provincial level through the Office of the Premier or through the Office of the Mayor at local government office.

Adv Mpumlwana pointed out that there were people from Bangladesh and India who had been affected.

Mr Motau said that in the report they had the nationals of the various countries that had been affected were identified. The Committee should start with those embassies keeping in mind that a lot of work had already been done by the principals with the embassies.

Mr Salmon proposed that the Committee go through the overview presentation which would give an idea of what happened in 2008, what the Executive had already done in 2015 and other interventions. Overall the presentation would influence the programme.

Suggested follow-up areas flowing from the 2008 report of the Task Team of Members of Parliament Probing Violence and Attacks against Foreign Nationals
Ms Patricia Whittle, Parliamentary Researcher, took the Committee through issues that were identified by the 2008 task team.

On 11 May 2008 a series of violent attacks against foreign nationals broke out in Alexandra Township in Gauteng and spread to other areas in Gauteng and other provinces. On 13 May 2008 the National Assembly passed a resolution that established the Task Team of Members of Parliament probing violence and attacks on foreign nationals. The Task Team’s report on its oversight visit to Alexandra, Tembisa, Germiston and Reiger Park, Ramaphosaville on 26 May 2008 made several recommendations.

62 people including 21 South Africans died in the attacks and 14 647 people were displaced.

Selected general recommendations to address xenophobia and violence
There should be joint sessions of relevant parliamentary committees to hold public hearings on a policy and legislative framework dealing with migration and immigration. There should be a parliamentary task team established in Gauteng and the Western Cape to monitor implementation of humanitarian programmes and reintegration of displaced persons into communities. All resolutions of the 2001 UN World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance should be noted and there should be follow up on implementation of these resolutions.

Selected 2008 recommendations to specific Parliamentary committees

▪ The Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs should ensure the Department of Home Affairs prioritised issuing foreign nationals with correct documentation, maintain adequate records and root out corruption. The relevant committees had to conclude the processing of the Refugees Amendment Bill.

▪ The Portfolio Committee on Safety and Security (now Police) and Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence had to engage with report of the inter-ministerial task team investigating the root cause of violent attacks on foreign nationals.

▪ The Portfolio Committee on Safety and Security had to establish the ability of (i) crime combating units to deal with crowd control to stem future attacks and (ii) police response to violent situations in general.

▪ The Portfolio Committee on Foreign Affairs (now International Relations) had to monitor DIRCO programmes to ensure missions could deal with enquiries about violence and attacks, including government initiatives to combat reoccurrence.

▪ The Portfolio Committee Justice and Constitutional Development had to monitor Special Courts' progress in processing cases of violence against foreign nationals. The security cluster committees needed to review policies and practices regarding border security, and ports of entry.

▪ The Portfolio Committee on Housing (now Human Settlements) had to monitor Department of Housing initiatives to disseminate information to communities about the national housing code and housing allocation criteria.

▪ The NA and NCOP Labour, Provincial and Local Government, Finance cluster committees had to examine allegations that foreign nationals and undocumented migrants trade without relevant permits in contravention of provincial and local bylaws.

Government initiatives
Since the adoption of the 2008 Parliamentary Task Team report on violence and attacks against foreign nationals, the South African Government had implemented various initiatives, some of which were ongoing.

Selected South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) Recommendations (2010)
There needed to be army deployment in conjunction with the police in urgent cases to deal expeditiously with violence and restore law and order.

National disaster management needed to be elevated to the Presidency to allow for better coordination of responses to crises such as xenophobic violence. There needed to be better cooperation and coordination between departments at local government, provincial and national level and integrated approach between crime fighting agencies and departments.

The South African Police Service needed to develop early warning systems as a preventative measure. With the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development fast tracking hate crime legislation, and finalise and implement a National Action Plan against Racism.

The SAHRC recommended the development of coordinated integration programmes and ensure monitoring and evaluation of ongoing programmes. The Commission also recommended the strengthening of its capacity to investigate and respond timeously to human rights abuses

Selected Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) Recommendations (2008)
The HSRC recommended the auditing of RDP houses and developing a policy on their occupation, sale and rental to ensure only South Africans occupy this form of housing. Border control needed to be strengthened, and for the state to grant an amnesty period to illegal immigrants to apply for formal residence permits without threat of deportation.

Suggested Areas for Follow-Up
Update on status of current Policy and Regulatory Framework governing migration, immigration and ‘hate crimes’. These include, but are not limited to: status of hate crimes legislation, status of White Paper on Migration and status of Refugees Amendment Bill. The Constitutional Court suspended the order of invalidity for two years but, in the interim, read certain provisions into the Act until Parliament remedies the defect. Parliament has until September 2015 to remedy the defective clause.

By 12 May 2015 it appeared the bill had not been tabled in Parliament as its tabling in

Cabinet had been delayed due to unspecified technicalities. It was not certain when the Department of Home Affairs would table the comprehensive Refugee Amendment Bill

Recommended briefings
There should be briefings on the status of review of the current policy and practices to secure borders and ports of entry. A briefing on the current ability of the SAPS Public Order Policing units (POPS) to respond to attacks. A briefing from the Department of Human Settlements on initiatives to disseminate information on the national housing code and criteria for the allocation of housing.

From the Department of Home Affairs on its ability to fulfill its institutional mandate and to provide foreign nationals with correct documentation, maintain adequate records and ensure that corruption was rooted out. By the Department of Labour and other stakeholders on trading permits.

2015 Summary of Relevant Developments
Mr Salmon gave a presentation on the state’s response to the 2015 xenophobia attacks and the dramatic consequences.

Overview of 2015 Events
Mid-April 2015 foreign-owned shops in the township in KwaMashu in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) reported looting and torching as locals attempted to drive out immigrants from other African states. First of many attacks across KwaZulu-Natal and later  Johannesburg. After the initial attacks, a government media briefing gave an overview of its position and response reiterating condemnation of the “callous acts of violent attacks and looting”. The President appointed Ministers of State Security, Home Affairs and Police to spearhead a government response. The response strengthened when whole Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) Cluster was added as well as the Ministers of International Relations and Cooperation, Small Business Development, Trade and Industry and Social Development.

Individuals had been sending out fictitious SMS and WhatsApp messages with fictitious and photoshopped images warning people of imminent attacks. The government stated that it felt that these messages appeared to be orchestrated by elements bent on taking advantage of the unease in communities and instil fear amongst the people. SAPS identified a labour dispute over the employment of foreign workers in Isipingo, south of Durban, as igniting the xenophobic attacks. The dispute then spread to Umlazi Township and escalated from looting to petrol bomb attacks.  A coordinated government security response was deployed with thousands of security personnel in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. Dedicated investigation teams were established and counter-intelligence operations.

Social Development, Health & Humanitarian Services
The Department of Social Development provided food, shelter and necessities to 1026 displaced persons in shelters in Gauteng and KZN. Trauma counselling and debriefing services were provided to individuals at shelters. Specialised services were provided to children in need of care and protection, including Early Childhood Development Programmes in Isipingo and Chatsworth. Social Development, Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) and Community Safety facilitating Community Dialogues to ensure a smooth reintegration process.

JCPS response
The army was deployed in xenophobic hot spots including Alexandra, Durban, Pietermaritzburg, Johannesburg and Pretoria. Provincial Joint Operational Structures (PROVJOCS) have also been activated to monitor and curb any potential threats across the nine provinces. 307 suspects were arrested in connection with attacks on foreigners and public violence across the country.

Members of the SANDF would also be deployed as immigration officers to improve the capacity of the Department of Home Affairs at border posts. It was reported to the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs, that the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (Natjoints) had 1 240 extra intelligence operatives deployed (including 438 to Gauteng, 271 to Mpumalanga, 263 to KwaZulu-Natal and 187 to Limpopo).

Presidential Stakeholder Meetings
On 22 April 2015, the President convened a meeting of stakeholders on attacks against foreign nationals. It discussed how migration policy and how various sectors can work with government to promote orderly migration and good relations between citizens and other nationals. 40 stakeholders came from government, business, sports, trade unions, religious leaders, community formations, youth formations, children, disabled persons, traditional authorities, arts and sports fraternities.

On 24 April 2015, discussions were held with leaders of 50 organisations representing foreign national residents in South Africa. The President acknowledged, although these attacks had happened not the first time, that the majority of South Africans not xenophobic.

Stakeholder Meeting Suggestions
SAPS needed to treat all citizens equally and investigate all cases including by foreign nationals. Foreign nationals in South Africa should try to contribute more to development of communities in which they live, sharing skills such as maths and science with youth. There should be events like Africa Week in May to educate and promote African unity. There should be standardisation of labour practices, so employers cannot employ cheap labour and exploit people thus creating a more equal market.

Inter Ministerial Committee
On 22 April 2015 the President appointed the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Migration to promote orderly and efficient migration and peaceful co-existence between citizens and non-South Africans. The inter-ministerial committee will consider social, economic and security aspects; the committee included 14 Ministers.

Diplomatic Relations
South African vehicles were pelted with stones in Mozambique and the southern Lebombo border blockaded; Sasol evacuated 340 South Africans over safety fears. In Harare, Zimbabwe there were clashes with police as more than 100 marched outside RSA embassy. The Economic Community of West African States condemned barbaric, criminal and xenophobic murder of foreigners.

There were protests outside the South African consulate and High Commission in Abuja resulting in its closure and Nigeria allegedly recalled its High Commissioner. Minister of Home Affairs met representatives of the African countries whose citizens were affected by the violence. The Minister of International Relations met the related members of the African diplomatic community.

President Freedom Day Celebration Speech
The President acknowledged seven people were killed including three South Africans. Mozambican citizen, Manuel Jossias, was brutally killed during a robbery in Alexandra. He used a false name as he was an illegal immigrant. Communities were urged to isolate criminal elements who perpetuate such horrendous crimes.

The underlying causes of the violence and tensions were the legacy of poverty, unemployment and inequality in the country and continent. The following complaints raised by South Africans would be attended to: the number of illegal migrants, scarce jobs and lower wages, foreigners benefiting from government services, and illegal businesses. None of these complaints justified attacks on foreign nationals and the looting of their shops. The accusation that 'all undocumented foreign nationals commit crimes in the country' is not true.

Operation FIELA Reclaim
The Inter-Ministerial Committee on Migration reported Operation Fiela-Reclaim targeted “illegal weapons, drug dens, prostitution rings and other illegal activity” and conducted raids in Johannesburg CBD in a “professional manner”. On 8 May in the Johannesburg CBD area, including the Methodist Church (a sanctuary for migrants) was raided and hundreds arrested.  On 17 May the Minister in the Presidency from inter ministerial committee on migration, denied targeting foreigners. But out of the 3 914 arrests, 1650 (42%) were undocumented foreigners (versus only 5% of total population).

Lawyers for Human Rights involved  & tried to consult clients detainees at the Central Johannesburg Police Station and Lindela Repatriation Centre. They were blocked repeatedly despite court orders. Many locked up ‘illegals’ actually had a right to stay; they had complicated cases such as asylum seekers or expired asylum applications. On 4 May another court order temporarily interdicted the Department of Home Affairs from deporting Law for Human Rights clients, to allow consultation with their lawyers and ordered the Department to provide a list of deportees. Operation Fiela continues and members of the Defence Force have a mandate until the end of June

Adv Mpumlwana said there was no doing justice from the information they had just heard by just asking questions, the Committee needed to properly digest the information.

Mr Chance said in the last few months he had a considerable amount of interaction with the affected communities. A phrase that came up over and over was “liberation dividend”. This means that they fought for liberation for decades, in 1994 they got it, but now they perceive it (the dividend, the fruit of liberation) as being taken away from them by “foreign nationals”. What they were actually referring to was that the small business sector (particularly spaza shops) were being squeezed from the top by the proliferation of shopping malls. They were also being squeezed from the bottom by the influx of foreigners, because these foreigners were backed up by a sophisticated network for the supply of goods, had access to finance, had experience with running businesses and they worked really hard. They had been able to penetrate the township retail sector and took business away from the spaza shops.

There were many foreigners that were in the country illegally, the Department of Home Affairs had clearly not acted on the recommendations that were included in the report from 2008. This had contributed to the problem. It was incumbent on the Committee to understand the economic dynamics affecting why people who in the past had run spaza shops were now renting them out to foreigners. Then when foreigners were attacked, they exacerbated the matter by bringing in the criminal element. The issue of cause and effect was very important.

Ms Dlamini said most of the time the focus was on spaza shops, there were a number of sectors affected by this that needed to be taken into consideration: the agricultural sector, the hospitality industry and the taxi industry.

Mr Motlashuping agreed that the information provided was bulky, Members needed to be given a chance to go through the documents on their own and he asked the Content Advisor to isolate issues that were a matter of concern and importance for the Committee.

Mr Motau said four main issues identified around the violent attacks were the allocation of RDP houses, jobs, spaza shops and the notion that a lot of the crime was perpetuated by illegal immigrants. One of the key failures identified by communities was that South Africa had failed to maintain control over foreign nationals once they were in the country. The policy was simply to allow them to enter the country and not be involved in their integration in communities. In the documents there were many good suggestions on how these issues could be addressed, and they needed to be part of the discussions.

The Chairperson said the following meeting of the Committee would include a revised programme that would include the other sectors the Committee would like to meet with. The Inter-Ministerial Committee did not have the Department of Labour; also in the groups the Committee proposed there was no mention of the labour movements. These were important as the report revealed that what happened in Isiphingo was a labour dispute that sparked the attacks.

The meeting was adjourned.


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