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Government confident it can move ahead with re-integration

Resource type: News

Sunday Times (South Africa) |

Original Source by Victor Khupiso, Gabisile Ndebele and Philani Nombembe ‘We don’t want foreigners … I don’t regret taking part in these attacks’ As safety camps housing 7000 people who fled May’s xenophobic violence prepare to close in the next two weeks, foreigners are sceptical about the government’s plan to reintegrate them into communities. On Friday, the Gauteng provincial government said it was confident that favourable conditions now exist for the reintegration of displaced foreign nationals. Spokesman Thabo Masebe said this was based on reports from local councillors. But Mathew Matambira, who lives in Strydom Park camp in Boksburg, said he is terrified to go back to the home he bought in Wattville as those who threatened to kill him during the violence still live nearby. His fears are not unfounded. In many affected areas locals say they have yet to see any government representatives wanting to convince them to allow foreigners to return. At Madala hostel in Alexandra a resident identified as Steven said he had only heard about re-integration on the radio. A man from Ramaphosa, who refused to give his name, said: No one from government, or even our councillors, has bothered to brief us. We don’t want the foreigners. Let foreigners stay with councillors and ministers who are going on radio and TV to say lots of things. I don’t regret taking part in these attacks. Five Gauteng provincial ministers will decide next week when the province’s five safety camps, housing 3000 people, will be closed. In Cape Town, 4000 foreigners are still sheltering in five camps, mosques, community halls and churches. Hilda Godfast, the head of the city’ s disaster management team, said there were plans to re-integrate everyone by July 23 but we did not say we would evict them after the deadline. Godfast said the Western Cape had re-integrated three-quarters of the 22000 refugees displaced in May. About 3000 had voluntarily registered for temporary asylum cards. However, Treatment Action Campaign spokesman Gilad Isaacs said it was worried about the safety of the refugees because some had already been attacked after returning. But Godfast said facilitators and churches were all involved in efforts to bring communities and the displaced together and that communities were supporting re-integration. One of the big challenges is that some of the areas where people were displaced have high rates of crime and poverty and if they are attacked it becomes difficult to distinguish whether it is because of crime or if they are vulnerable due to a number of reasons and in some communities people don’t feel safe, she said. In KwaZulu-Natal, Lennox Mabaso, spokesman for the department of local government and housing, said the situation was under control and foreigners had been re-integrated. But Pierre Matate of the province’s refugee council said 400 displaced people still sheltered in churches. They are threatened daily. No foreigner is safe and to say everything is under control is complete rubbish, he said. – Additional reporting by Subashni Naidoo and Nicki Güles

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