Religion and COVID19: Faith leaders unite against acts of persecution

In the spirit of Madiba and his vision to spread social justice and freedom for all, religious leaders from Southern Africa came together to engage in an ‘Interfaith Webinar against Religious Oppression’ on Mandela Day. Panellists from South Africa, Lesotho, and Zimbabwe condemned acts of persecution and discrimination against minority religious groups such as South Korea’s Shincheonji Church of Jesus, which has been accused of intentionally spreading the COVID 19 in February 2020 in South Korea.

Chairperson of Council for African Traditional Religion, Dr Nokuzola Mndende shared that, “As all the constitutions from our respective countries speak of the right to life, which is a right for everybody, our governments would put all political class and religious boundaries aside. We are all facing one enemy, which is Covid-19. Freedom of religion and freedom of belief should not be on paper only; it should be implemented if we are talking about democracy”.  She also brought up the interesting fact that although we celebrate the late Tata Mandela, he brought together different religions, yet the African Traditional Religion still stands marginalized and oppressed in South Africa to date.

With Yashika Singh, the SABC’s Head of Religion sharing the synopsis of the current state of religion in the continent, the panellist’s spotlighted the ongoing persecution of the fellow religious leader, and founder of South Korean church, Shincheonji, Man Hee Lee. The leaders shed light on the importance of protecting universal rights and freedoms and jointly spoke against the unlawful and dehumanizing actions of the religious community and the Government of Korea.

Recent developments in an ongoing court case against the religious group have led to an $82 million lawsuit, arrests of five church officials, and an impending probe from the State prosecutor.

 “Chairman Lee has worked so hard against coercive conversion, preventing people from freely participating their religion of choice as mentioned in the UN Charter Article 18, Freedom of Religion. We cannot close HWPL or Shincheonji. This Mandela Day, I say ‘we are one”’, Reverend Tsine from the Indigenous Christian Churches in Zimbabwe.

Imam Salieg Isaacs added, “Nelson Mandela taught us to take care of each other regardless of whether they were a Jew or a Muslim or a Christian. We want to condemn any kind of persecution because of religion from all around the world.”

The event concluded with a joint statement from the religious leaders. In the statement, they committed to support Chairman Lee’s noble peace work, to stand in solidarity against the oppression of minority religious groups, and to condemn all acts of human rights violations, persecution, and discrimination against Chairman Lee’s church, Shincheonji and other minority groups worldwide. The joint statement was addressed to their respective governments and the government of South Korea, other religious leaders, and the global community.

The event drew over 600 online viewers and, was hosted by the Heavenly Culture World Peace, Restoration of Light (HWPL) an international peace organization that has actively worked to promote inter-religious harmony through hosting monthly dialogue of scriptures. One of Africa Unite’s members, Brilliant Nyambi, had the privilege of going to South Korea to attend the 2018 World Peace Summit hosted by HWPL. It is there were Africa Unite learnt more information about the amazing peace work done by HWPL. Through the leadership of the chairman, HWPL drafted the Declaration of Peace and Cessation of War (DPCW) and as engaged in many projects worldwide for the purpose of achieving world peace. In the African continental level, HWPL and IPYG are engaging with the African Union’s flagship project of Silencing the Guns to promote peace and they continue to work in the African Union Youth 4 Peace Programme to promote the role of youth in Africa’s peace processes. Africa Unite has collaborated in various occasions with IPYG and has produced many meaningful and impactful collaborative dialogues, community engagements and workshops which have allowed for many young people to critically think of the role in promoting peace in their various communities.

Panelists:

  1. Hajj Abdulmalik Sekhonyana Molapo, President of Supreme Council Islamic Affairs in Lesotho
  2. Dr Nokuzola Mndende, President and founder of Icamagu Spirituality; Chairperson of Council for African Traditional Religion.
  3. Mr Pravesh Gangaram Hurdeen Singh, President of the World Hindu Foundation South Africa
  4. Reverend Mathias Tsine, Secretary General of the Indigenous Christian Churches in Zimbabwe
  5. Imam Salieg Isaacs, Coordinator at the Cape Town Interfaith Initiative also representative on behalf of the Muslim Judicial Council
  6. Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft, known as the travelling Rabbi, Spiritual Leader and CEO of the African Jewish Congress, and African Regional Director of the Commonwealth Jewish Council
Interfaith Speakers list

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Human Rights & COVID-19: “The good, the bad and the way forward.”

On June 27th 2020, the Africa Unite Human rights teams based in Cape Town and Durban organised Africa Unites first-ever joint information session via the video calling application Google Meet for Africa Unite Peer educators, to discuss the effects of Human rights & COVID-19.

The objectives of the session were among others to: discuss Human Rights abuses during the lockdown, Resource deployment and intervention by the State and NGO’s, Why Human Rights education is important, What Africa Unite has done, interventions and education campaigns, Time to imagine the “new normal”, What we can do in our capacity to curb the spread and continue to raise HR awareness.

The meeting started at noon and was moderated by Mr Lyle Breda, a project coordinator for Africa Unite.

Lyle Breda, began proceedings by encouraging introductions, and provided global political, economic, and social context to the COVID-19 pandemic. He then introduced the first speaker, Melusi Mahlaba, a team leader for Africa Unite Durban.

Mr Melusi Mahlaba, discussed the fundamental principles of Human rights that include their universality and inalienability. He spoke to the importance of education of human rights to all people for injustices to be noted and acted upon. The exercise of an individual’s rights shall be responsible by not violating others’ rights. He highlighted the significance of shared responsibility by referring to the video of George Floyd which violated his and his family’s right to privacy. We must know our rights and exercise them accordingly. Lastly, he noted that skills sharing is in demand.

Mazeeda Karani, a peer educator at Africa Unite and Lyle, discussed the inequality in the governance system that has been highlighted during the pandemic. They agreed there are gaps in who the government is serving. Mazeeda also pointed out that statistically, only 35% of all South Africans between 18 – 24 years old approved of lockdown regulations, pointing out a growing apathy towards governance structures and a general mistrust for authority. Lyle posed the question as to why the government was acting on certain issues (providing shelter for homeless people, creating field hospitals, and rationing food parcels) now, if they could do so pre-COVID-19.

Thierry Nimale, an Africa Unite Peer educator, pointed out that social relief measures were not made available to migrants, and that the community is continually being ignored by the State, this was supported by Dalali Venge, an Africa Unite exchange fellow from Tanzania, which prompted Africa Unite to start a skill-sharing program for migrants living in temporary shelters and on the streets of Cape Town.

The interventions by Africa Unite during COVID-19 were discussed. Through interventions, Human rights education is transferred to the communities and Africa Unite aims to reach more communities every year. Some of these interventions are: The disbursement of educational materials through infographics via multiple platforms and skills development. As mentioned above, AU assisted Dalali Venge in the training of migrant women to make hand-made face masks for their communities. Melusi explained that unemployment is currently the largest issue that affects human rights amongst the youth in South Africa. He strongly believes that the skill-sharing sessions should continue post-pandemic as the engagement between foreign nationals and locals stimulates business and social cohesion. 

Round table

Lyle encouraged the discussion by illustrating examples of interventions implemented by the government. Homeless people were removed from the streets and relocated to shelters arranged by the government. Their intentions can be questioned as they demonstrated their capability to intervene. Could the government have taken action before the pandemic, and if so, why do they implement them now? Lyle perceives it as an opportunity to remove the homeless from the city and leave them there. He asked the participants their opinions on the interventions in their area.
Keagen Gertse commented on the South African debt crisis, current societal congruence to the Apartheid era, and the elite political minority who disproportionately benefit from bad policies. He asked what South Africa was doing as a society to move forward? He claimed not enough was being done, and in fact, the Constitution is not a valid document anymore. He suggested the way to change is from the bottom up and promoting inclusive legislation. “Fundamental issues in society all start with systemized suppression. A fundamental solution is that we need to start address inequalities stated in the constitution.”

Wonke Mapeyi brought up many points. He spoke about the individual’s responsibility to make the change and that true power starts in the community (i.e. street committees). As an organization a lot can be achieved through programs, however, it is the communities that need to take it to the next level. He also discussed the importance of having a linkage between the communities, the government and legislation. Lastly, he spoke about the need to create development and opportunities for the people. Lastly, he pointed out that as civil society and individuals we should not be reactive to negative social issues like Gender-Based violence, which he stated was like fighting another pandemic, but rather we should be proactive in fighting societal scourges to reshape the current social fabric.

Interns, Brooke Stellman and Sammy Feller, added comments about human rights in the US and Netherlands. Brooke and Sam echoed the same sentiments about unemployment benefits that their respective governments have provisioned. Brooke noted that Black people have also been disproportionately affected in terms of healthcare amid the coronavirus pandemic. Sam noted that nurses were already demonstrating for their salary’s months before the pandemic which the government disregarded. It took a global pandemic to finally receive compensation for their hard work.

Way Forward

As the session pulled to a close, Lyle asked the participants to dare to imagine a “new normal” and whether this will be a positive or a negative.

Wonke Mapeyi, says the new normal is a positive, that changes can be done now and young people can enact the agenda they want. The youth needs to be more proactive in public policy to facilitate policy change.

Mazeeda Karani voiced her recommendation of teaching transferable skills. Community interventions need a broader outlook about future consequences. This sentiment was supported by all present.

Keagen Gertse agrees skills need to be developed using existing structures that will help communities in the long run. Basics of skills is necessary to construct a society. He also discussed the need for more interventions from the private sector as they have more resources to their disposal. A framework can be created in which private institutions provide a certain number of skillsets stimulating mass skill development. We need to build a central ground for the private sector to the communities.    

The session then came to a close, Lyle thanked all of the speakers and participants, a word of thanks was also given by the speakers. The overall tone of the session remained optimistic and fruitful until the end. All participants were resolute that, skills sharing with a hint of Human Rights relief will be a major step in the right direction.

For more information, please contact,

Nthati Lesaoana, Human Rights Manager.

Nthati@africaunite.org.za

+2776 460 4331

Lyle Breda, Project coordinator

lyle@africaunite.org.za

+2761 268 0202

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BUILDING RESILIENCE THROUGH COLLABORATIVE EFFORTS POST PANDEMIC

On the 27th of June 2020, the Africa Unite School Club (AUSC) hosted a webinar session on “building resilience through collaborative efforts post-pandemic”. The session had participants from our AUSC members and alumni’s who are matriculants this year. We also had the privilege to have speakers, Ms Sive Mama; an educator, Ms Busiswa Dlamini; a health practitioner, and Ms Xena Scullard; a socio-political activist, who all shared more on how the pandemic has impacted their respective fields and how they have adjusted to our new normality.

The purpose of the webinar was to create a  platform where learners and school teachers can give feedback and elaborate on their experiences during the first month of schools reopening in South Africa. Likewise, the webinar allowed learners and educators to share recommendations on what could be a way forward given the current situation in South Africa, this included measures which could be taken post-pandemic.

The school learners and the educators noted the rise of people testing positive for COVID-19 in schools across the country as a major concern. One of the recommendations made by the learners was for parents to take action against schools reopening. They further discussed how it is extremely difficult for people to adopt a new set of behaviours as they now need to restructure their understanding and engagement with their schooling environment.

One of the speakers; Ms Scullard, shared insight on how inequalities and violence against women has increased during the lockdown, and that gang violence has also increased which is a great concern for society. She further stated that in order for everyone to be educated on the pandemic, we must start normalising discussions on COVID-19 in our homes and communities.

Additionally, other suggestions that were raised in the session regarding COVID-19 were:

  1. There has been much stress on how learners are conducting themselves at school during this pandemic, however the government should elaborate on regulations on how educators and staff conduct themselves. E.g. do they have appropriate PPE’s in place? Are they adequately exercising social distancing in the staff rooms? Do they have their own dusters and chalks at school to limit sharing of resources etc. 
  2. There needs to be more emphasis on parent’s involvement on academia.
  3. There needs to be contingencies to enable government’s educational platforms to be accessible without internet connectivity

Overall the webinar was very fruitful and sparked great engagement within our youth, we would like to thank all our speakers for the valuable input they provided and hope to have more sessions like these over the upcoming months as the learners have very much enjoyed the exchange of different perspectives.

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Youth and Africa Day in South Africa

By Cresencia Nyathi, Africa Unite Peer Educator

With lockdown in place, Africa Unite virtually joined other Africans around the continent and the world and commemorated Africa Day on the 25th of May which marked the historic establishment of the Organization of the African Unity in 1963 in form of a dialogue. The youth dialogue was aimed at unearthing what Africa Day mean to young people in South Africa, understanding the role the youth can play in creating African unity and identity at a political, economic and social level guided by the goals of Agenda 2063. Regionally, Africa Day 2020 was commemorated under the banner, “Silencing the guns: creating conducive conditions for Africa’s development to achieve the goal of a conflict-free Africa.”

Succinctly, the 25th May has been celebrated widely across the world particularly in Africa to signify Africa’s identity and unity. The African Union (AU) is a key driver of Agenda 2063 which is a strategic framework for the socio-economic transformation of our continent. Agenda 2063 seeks to realise the African people’s aspirations for sustainable growth and development across Africa. The dialogue unmasked certain knowledge gaps that exist amongst South African youth about Africa Day. The participants made acknowledgements that they never knew that there was Africa Day until they participated in Africa Unite’s programmes. The following responses were made by the participants during the dialogue which revealed the knowledge gaps about the Africa Day amongst young people in South Africa:

“I have come across young people in SA who do not know that there is Africa Day.”

“I didn’t know that there was Africa Day before I joined Africa Unite in 2017.”

“I heard about it last year (2019), I was shocked that I am so uninformed about this day.”

With the knowledge gap of the existence of the day, it poses serious challenges to young people to even commemorate the day. Moreover, some felt that the continuous scapegoating of foreign nationals and hatred amongst each other as Africans made it challenging to commemorate the day. As one of the participants explained that they do not celebrate the day because of the following reasons:

“Because there is lost meaning of the day through how we treat each other here in South Africa.”

“I have never celebrated the day; through social engagement, I have come to know the day and it’s not even recognized in South Africa dismissing its significance.”

From the above comments by the participants, the violent history of South Africa against African nationals has contributed to young people to take part in violence labelled as “xenophobic” which led participants that there was too much hate amongst the Africans. Therefore, such poses a threat to African unity. Moreover, some citizens believe that high levels of unemployment and adverse poverty lines could be attributed to continuous inflows of immigrants from neighbouring African countries and therefore using such excuses as a scapegoat.

Young people have a responsibility of standing what is morally right as one participant raised that youth can contribute and achieve Agenda 2063 by fighting bad practices to build a better Africa for everyone. The key lies in young people taking initiatives in building moral cultures that feed into the aims and objectives of Agenda 2063. On the other hand, young people need to know the African continent as one participant highlighted that:

“We need to be educated, familiarize ourselves with African history and become African ambassadors…”

“…young people must be taught the notion of Ubuntu and practice it as this spirit of Ubuntu is living within us as Africans…”

One of the major concerns raised during the dialogue was that South Africans do not identify themselves with Africa which was a big blow towards achieving Agenda 2063. In the words of one of the participants:

“…a lot needs to be done in educating youth about Africa. Often, we as South Africans do not identify as being part of the African continent as we refer our brothers and sisters from other parts of Africa as foreigners whilst we call people from the West as tourists. This starts in our homes, how we speak and refer to that African brother who is running a tuckshop that provides us with our daily necessities. We as youth must change the narrative, we have no excuse of our ignorance as we have social media and internet at our disposal. Before we endeavour to become global citizens, let us take pride in being Africans.”

Youth are frequently condemned by media and society as violent and trouble makers, but by training and then engaging youth in promoting nonviolence they have great potential to promote peace. It cannot be denied that youth are both victims and perpetrators of xenophobic violence; victims as being affected by structural violence, witnesses to violence at home and within communities; perpetrators as they can then become violent themselves. However, youth must be put at the centre of driving the Africa we want. Moreover, youth are an important human resource in driving social change and have the potential to contribute significantly to African unity and development.

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Youth day dialogue: Elevating the African child, leaving no child behind “Agenda 2030”

On June 16th 2020, the Africa Unite Exchange Programme team arranged a youth dialogue via WhatsApp for various leaders in youth engagement. The dialogue attracted more than 83 participants from countries all over Africa, we had participants from South Africa, Malawi, Ghana, Congo, Lesotho, Nigeria, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Madagascar etc. The purpose of the Youth Day dialogue was to deliberate the challenges faced by an African child and to map out solutions to those challenges so that the African child is not left behind the achievement of 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. The theme of the dialogue was “Discourse: Voices and Issues affecting an African child, so he/she is not left behind come 2030.”

One of our Exchange Peer Educators from Malawi facilitated the online dialogue, and she began by contextualizing the importance of this day. She detailed that on June 16th in South Africa, we commemorate the students who lost their lives during the Soweto uprisings on this day in 1991. She also acknowledged the courage of the students who marched for their right to education. She noted that for the Sustainable Development Goals to be achieved children should and cannot be left behind. Overall, the dialogue sought to celebrate an African child, despite the diverse and complex challenges faced.  Moreover, the platform allowed the participants to learn from the past and present leaders and device solutions for the contemporary problems faced by an African child. Our Exchange Peer Educator’s message to the African child was: “I dream of a world where you can laugh, dance, sing, learn and live in peace and be happy.” –  Malala Yousafzai. 

The introduction of the dialogue revolved around the aspirations of a united Africa that supports each other regardless of artificial borders. An Africa that taps into its natural resources and uses those to their advantage to cut dependency and cultivate self-sufficiency. An Africa that does not depend on external funding as those limit Africa to fully achieve her objectives as a continent. An Africa where African children can see it heal and move on from the woundedness that poses a threat to our unity, peace and tolerance.

One significant topic raised during the dialogue was that education is a fundamental instrument to preserve cultural values and beliefs. The transformation of a group’s customs, beliefs, laws and institution can be referred to as social change. Education is key to development and transformation as it facilitates social change to both the individual and the community at large. Teachers are agents of change, training the stimulus, and the students are the recipients and preservers of change.

One of the speakers stated that the United Nations dream to achieve sustainable development has an element of leaving no one behind. That means if Africa has to accomplish these goals, everyone, including an African child, has to be involved.

The dialogue also uncovered an interesting discussion regarding juvenile justice systems. It highlighted that access to child-friendly investigation and fair trial should be created to ensure that African children have access to reasonable judgements. Without child-friendly studies and child-friendly trials, there cannot be talks about access to justice or fair assessment. Therefore, advocating for impartial investigations for an African child to feel free to speak to officials from investigative wings who are trained to handle children and not treat them like criminals is what we ought to do. If and when investigations are friendly, a child will be able to open up easily, thus, leading to a fair trial.

Another challenge of African children revealed during the dialogue centred around an African identity crisis. The African youth does not know who they are. The question was raised of “How do we define ourselves when we are bombarded by a multitude of cultural definitions of our identity?”. The western or developed world aggressively flashes an overwhelming amount of information that more often than not, tells us to define ourselves by external measures, that leads to further confusion on the African child. Before we can know what we are meant to do and how we can help our continent, we must understand who we are as children of Africa. From that point of departure, it will be easy to create, innovate and develop technologies, systems and infrastructure that is uniquely tailored to solve our African challenges.

The responses of the participants demonstrated the need for teaching the African identity as well. The following issue was raised by a participant: “a lot of the social issues at hand come as a result of how we view ourselves, identity and the various levels of this is of utmost importance, we as African changemakers or people vested in the well-being of our people need to start changing the dynamic on a micro and macro scale,” The participants also acknowledged that Africans must learn more about Africa and less about European history through active and innovative learning. Our children must be built to be independent not seeing the western world as a superbeing.

Way Forward:
The group decided the only way to move forward was to agree to lead by example for the future generation. The road ahead lies in education and bringing the youth voice to the table that this was just the start of a movement to advance the African child.

For more information about the dialogue and our programs, please contact,

Nthati Lesaoana,

Human Rights Manager

Tel. +27-21-461-6551
Cell: 076 460 4331

Email: nthati@africaunite.org.za

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Open letter to the Minister of Home Affairs

25 May 2020

THE HONOURABLE MINISTER OF HOME AFFAIRS

DR. AARON MOTSOALEDI

HALLMARK BUILDING

230 JOHANNES RAMOKHOASE

PRETORIA

By email: Minister@dha.gov.za

CC.

Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Dr Naledi Pandor

E-mail: minister@dirco.gov.za

DHA Acting Director General ADG Jackie McKay

E-mail: Jackie.mckay@dha.gov.za

DHA Acting Deputy Director General : Immigration Services

ADDG Modiri Matthews

E-mail: Modiri.matthews@dha.gov.za

The South African Human Rights Commission- Commissioner Angie Makwetla

E-mail: amakwetla@sahrc.org.za

UN Agencies in charge of Migrants (workers) & Refugees

(UNHCR; IOM; ILO)

Dear Dr Motsoaledi

CLASS APPLICATION IN TERMS OF SECTION 30(2) OF THE IMMIGRATION ACT 13 OF 2002 (as amended) (“the Act”)

Introduction

1. The Southern African Migration Network (SAMIN) is a coalition of twenty-five civic society organisations from Southern Africa. The objectives of SAMIN include advocating for the best practices in migration that align with the United Nations international instruments on migration as well as the Africa Union (AU) and Southern African Development Community (SADC) protocols on migration.

2. We wish to address you on behalf of various affected persons who were declared as undesirable persons in terms of Regulation 27(1)(c) of the Regulations to the Act (“the Regulations”) during their repatriations from South Africa under the current Covid-19 Level Four Regulations.

3. In preparation of submission of this application to you, we have consulted various migrants; stakeholders from civic society; religious organisations; community organisations; businesses; activists and other interested parties.

Background

4. It is common cause that South Africa has been a preferred destination for many migrants from Africa, particularly those from SADC. It is perceived as the land of opportunities by entrepreneurs as well as those wishing to pursue formal employment. South Africa is also a hub for cross border traders who travel frequently in and out of the country for acquisition of stock.

5. South Africa was not spared from the Covid-19 Pandemic. On 15 March 2020 the honourable President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a national state of disaster in terms of the Disaster Management Act 57 of 2002 (as amended). Pursuant thereto, the President announced a nationwide lockdown on 23 March 2020 which came into effect on 27 March 2020. As part of the Covid-19 measures, South Africa’s borders were closed from 27 March 2020 for travel except for the return of South African citizens and permanent residents. Many migrants and visitors had visas or permits that were still valid but would expire on or after 27 March 2020. It was clear that many of them would not be able to leave South Africa between 23 March 2020 when the President announced the lockdown and 27 March 2020 when the lockdown commenced. Accordingly, you stated on 25 March 2020 that foreign nationals would not be penalised if their visas or permits had an expiry date falling within the lockdown period. As at date hereof, South Africa remains under lockdown.

6. With the nation’s move from the nationwide lockdown at level five to alert level four, repatriation of non-South African citizens became permissible from 1 May 2020. At that stage, South Africa had been under a hard lockdown for five weeks (“level five lockdown”). Many people lost wages or income from their self-employment making their continued stay in South Africa unsustainable. On the strength of your above-mentioned statement on 25 March 2020, some people opted for repatriation without any concerns about their residency status in the country at the time.

Events which necessitated this Application

7. On 6 May 2020, the first group of people for repatriation to Zimbabwe via the Beitbridge Border Post embarked on their journey. More groups departed thereafter for Zambia, Malawi and other SADC countries. Contrary to what the travellers expected, they were penalised by officials from your department on their departure from South Africa. The affected travellers may be categorised as follows:

7.1. those who were visiting South Africa whose visitors’ visas expired during the level five lockdown;

7.2. those who had temporary residency visas that expired during the level five lockdown; and

7.3. those whose visas or permits expired before the level five lockdown and they were still in the process of legalising their stay in South Africa.

8. To the best of our knowledge, the majority of the travellers were declared undesirable persons for a period of five years in terms of regulation 27(1)(c) of the Act on the basis that they had overstayed for more than thirty days.

Appeal to the Honourable Minister

9. It appears that your assurance to foreign nationals on 25 March 2020 was not reduced to writing in the form of a binding directive to be followed by officials from your department. In the absence of a directive to guide your officials at the Beitbridge Border Post on how to process travellers falling within the categories in paragraphs 7.1 to 7.3 above, the officials were bound by and acted in terms of section 30(1)(h) of the Act. Consequently, they proceeded to declare such travellers as undesirable persons in terms of regulation 27(1)(c) of the Act.

10. As the honourable President has reiterated on many occasions, we are all sailing in unchartered waters. There is a lot of uncertainty for what lies ahead globally. What is clear though is that the status of undesirable person is detrimental. It not only prohibits such persons from entering South Africa but also prejudices them when applying for visas into countries such as the United States of America, Australia, and Schengen states. The undesirable person status is likely to result in their visa applications to other countries being rejected on the grounds that they were once illegal residents in another country, namely South Africa.

11. Today marks the 57th anniversary of the establishment of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), which is commonly referred to as Africa Day. The OAU’s aims included the promotion of political, economic and social integration among African States. The transformation of the OAU into the African Union (AU) on 9 July 2002 was aimed at achieving greater unity, cohesion and solidarity between African countries. This year, South Africa is celebrating Africa month under the theme of “Silencing the Guns, Creating Conducive Conditions for Africa’s Development and intensifying the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic”.

12. We respectfully submit that the imposition of an undesirable person status on hundreds of fellow Africans during these unprecedented and extremely trying times for all is simply not aligned with what the founding fathers of the OAU fought for. We further submit that it goes against the spirit of ubuntu – South Africa’s guiding principle of the way others should be treated. In the words of the late father of the nation, Nelson Mandela: “[A] traveller through a country would stop at a village and he didn’t have to ask for food or for water. Once he stops, the people give him food, entertain him. That is one aspect of ubuntu.”. The manner in which the travellers in question were treated certainly cannot promote African unity or deeper regional integration or recommit Africa to a common destiny. Such conduct will prevent the realisation of the AU’s vision of Agenda 2063.

13. In the circumstances, we humbly request that the grounds of undesirability that were issued to foreign nationals who opted for repatriation be waived.

14. We further request that a directive be issued by your offices and duly circulated to all ports of entry. This will ensure a uniform and correct treatment of any further travellers falling within the categories in paragraphs 7.1 to 7.3 above.

Conclusion

15. The Coronavirus Epidemic continues to wreak havoc globally. Many have been hard hit financially and are desperate to once again eke out a livelihood. We therefore cannot over emphasise the urgency of your decision on this issue.

16. We now await receipt of your decision herein.

Yours faithfully,

On behalf of SAMIN,

Mr Zoe Nkongolo, Africa Unite Director

IDASA Building

6 Spin Street

Cape Town, 8001

Tel: 021 4616551/ 083 9588133

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Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures

The outbreak of COVID-19 has created a new order which has seen South Africa taking radical actions in pursuit of containing the spread of the pandemic. South Africa action of calling for the lockdown has further precipitation the disruption of livelihoods within communities, especially the Black disadvantaged communities. With this, Africa Unite School program with its associates have taken a pivotal role in devising practical strategies to respond to the current situation as the current  environment entails shifting from longer-term responses to emergency relief.

Africa Unite School Club program has played a crucial role in the following ways ;

Academic assistance

With the closure of schools since February 2020, the education of learners has been greatly affected. Despite government initiatives to provide other alternatives of shifting to distance learning to reinforce learning and teaching strategies, these have been not been inclusive. Succinctly, government strategies have shortfalls especially looking at scholars who do not have access to the online resources used. As such, AUSC noted this gap and has distributed academic resources for the school club members through providing assistance for grade 8 to grade 12 learners with all subjects. In addition, AUSC has placed priority in subjects which scholars are struggling with such as Mathematics, Physics, Accounting and Biology. These lessons have been compressed and shared virtually through affordable social media platforms to accommodate all learners and their educational needs.  The development of lessons and activities was achieved by tapping into the network of teachers and peer educators who specialize in different subjects to share activities.

Capacity Building

The  responses to the pandemic has also forced AUSC to put all planned activities that involve contact with learners on hold such as the Annual Leadership Camp. The camp involves capacitating  the cabinet members and parliamentarians on their roles and responsibilities in their various portfolios. Although there has been shift of the activities our learners have continued to show show immense leadership and have initiated COVID-19 awareness campaigns using remote mechanisms even with the minimal resources  they have . Thus, the AUSC program has initiated a Teenage Superhero appreciation week which recognises the learners that have displayed leadership as well as encourage meaningful youth activism and leadership. Moreover, the initiatives of the young leaders will be published on AUSC Facebook and WhatsApp page.

Likewise, we have inducted a youth reporters program, which is aimed at capacitating our learners; more so the Presidents and Ministers of Information and Public Relations, to be able to report on the issues their school and communities face. Nonetheless, currently the program is centred on educating the learners on how to collect information from their families and outside sources on their current states during this pandemic. Nevertheless, the hope is for this program to grow into a podcast that our learners will be pioneering.

Community building

Since the focus of the AUSC entails working with communities, a community mapping was imperative to gather a baseline knowledge of the areas our learners come from, especially during this pandemic. Our learners shared information on the various affects the virus and current lockdown has had on them, their parents and fellow community members. The information has been packaged into a booklet which  details their diverse experiences.

Psychosocial support

The current environment has raised so many uncertainties leaving teenagers with anxiety and fear of the unknown, such poses a negative impact on the teenager’s ability to learn as it puts their mental health at risk. Moreover,it has the potential to lead to social and behavioral problems and negative self-concept . With this in mind the AUSC program has curated the Social and Emotional Learning Forum  (SELF) which has developed activities to assist learners with their emotional and mental health during  the pandemic. SELF hosted 3 Zoom sessions which have covered topics such as (1) prioritizing,(2) coping mechanism and (3) setting SMART goals. The SELF activities have managed to reach 42 learners and has been able to assist 20 learners per session with data to participate in the sessions. Through creative expressions learners have been able to utilize other skills,such as art and poetry to support COVID-19 responses.

Regardless of the current state, the AUSC Program will continue to work with our young leaders as we groom them into agents of change in this new normality. Likewise, we invite any partnerships that will assist the youth with their academics and other areas.

We would like to applaud the educators and parents that have been committed to assisting their learners and children in such conditions, your efforts never go unnoticed.

AUSC members performing a virtual stay at home campaign during the quarantine
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COVID-19 & the economy: how the ripples affect us all

On May 14th, 2020, the Africa Unite Human rights team based in Cape Town organised Africa Unites first-ever virtual information session via the video calling application Zoom for Africa Unite Peer educators, to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on the economy and on the informal economy, in particular, the title of the session was “Covid-19 & the economy: How the ripples affect us all”.

The objectives of the session were among others to: Discuss the implications of lockdown strategies on the formal and informal sectors, Seeing the informal sector as an important part of the South African economy, the social education taking place during the pandemic in regards to the virus itself, the measures taken and the reaction from the public and how we as Africa Unite staff and peer educators can attempt to play our parts to educate the public and become part of the public discourse and action.

The meeting started at 14h05 PM and was chaired by Mr. Lyle Breda, a project coordinator for Africa Unite.

Lyle Breda began proceedings with a presentation to provide context for the discussion, he showed the statistics of how COVID 19 has affected the world’s economy. Noting that It has also shown us the flaws in our systems, regarding the economy as an ecosystem and that both formal and informal economies are pieces of the same puzzle. He emphasized that a large misconception was to think that we could come out of this pandemic unscathed without ensuring the protection of the informal sector. This may mean a rebirth of Innovation, collaboration, and unity among community members. He finished the presentation stating the contraction of the economy means people are going to lose jobs but not all is bleak and called for people to support one another.

Wonke Mapeyi, a social activist and AU Peer Educator, brought many important points forward such as the increase in xenophobic sentiments towards migrants firstly because of the origin of the virus and secondly the scarcity as a result of economic depression. Mr. Mapeyi also mentioned that many informal traders are either resorting to crime, illegally trading, or not trading at all because permits were not approved and or dispensed to them. There was a positive note, people have started to innovate and create new ways to generate income which has stimulated the local spheres of influence in townships. Mr. Mapeyi is adamant that a wave of social education needs to take place and that civil society needs to increase pressure to educate the public and government officials at various levels on the virus, lockdown levels, and social relief processes.

Tasreeq Ferriera, a law student from the University of the Western Cape, advised on how society has been reluctant to embrace technology at the beginning of this pandemic but now we seem to survive with it using digital platforms to do work and attend school. This can be an opportunity for new entrepreneurs which will call for governments and NGOs to empower people with necessary skills, he has stated however, that this will also see retrenchments as larger companies start digitizing more and more.

Mazeeda Karani, a post-graduate student from the University of Cape Town, asked how people can transition back to stable livelihoods and how peer educators can help in the situation.

Muchulene Peplouw, a social activist and student, expressed her concern for her community of Mannenberg and other communities like hers where people have a total disregard for regulations, the notion is being carried that people in the Flats are more likely to die from gang violence than the virus, she also mentioned that Civil service posts have been closed such as the Police station and local day clinic both citing positive COVID-19 cases.

José Muianga a human rights lawyer from Mozambique specializing in migration issues, conveyed his concern but also interest in the difference in preparation strategies between South Africa and Mozambique stating that the South African market and the economy is more prepared and adjusted to digitizing and supports a more diverse marketplace, however, he also expressed that South Africa also has a higher level of crime which is a major concern. He noted that Mozambique ha failed to do a mass education to prepare its citizens for a pandemic and that the informal sector in Mozambique has largely been devastated by this pandemic and only time will tell where we will find ourselves.

Way Forward

Participants agreed on the following key actions and urgent tasks moving forward:
• Door to door education through pamphlets to create more awareness concerning the pandemic and spread.
• Seek partnerships with the Small Business Council chairperson and related ministries.
• Form a partnership with local radios and news agencies in spreading awareness
• Form task team of peer educators to influence the majority of youth and remaining inactive peer educators
• Organizing an online campaign and establish narrative through social media on the impacts of COVID-19, government responses, and how to adjust in a post-COVID-19 world.

Peer Educators participating in a discussion on the effects of COVID-19 on the economy

We believe that we will face hardships in the months to come but we can and will overcome this if we stand together (proverbially) the opportunity to remould social orders is at hand.

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Following our appeal dated 13th April 2020

Africa Unite is happy to announce that we managed to secure temporary accommodation for Rosy and her Family.

Days of hard work finally paid off when we were able to find a proper place for the family in Delft, Cape Town. During our search, several stakeholders replied to our appeal willing to help the family. A genuine heart-warming gesture. The family received assistance through donations and necessary baby supplies, blankets, mattresses, etc. from a variety of people interested in the cause. The contributions were highly appreciated, especially in this period of general lockdown.

Rosy and her family

Rosy and her new-born baby were officially discharged from the hospital on the 22nd of April 2020. Members of our team safely transported the family from the hospital to their new place in Delft, Cape Town. The collected donations were given to the family and it was truly touching to witness their gratitude. Through mutual effort, we can protect the most vulnerable together.

We continue to help the family by looking for a permanent residence where the entire family can be together.

Rosy and her baby

We would like to extend our sincere gratitude to the good Samaritans that laid a hand during this trying time for Rosy and her family.

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SAMIN webinar on the effects of COVID-19 on migration in the SADC region

On May 1st 2020, The Southern Africa Migration Network (SAMIN), representing various organisations working on Migration in the SADC region, organised a webinar that brought together the core team of SAMIN members in SADC countries, to discuss the challenges facing migrants and refugees during the COVID-19 and mobilize efforts across sectors and SADC countries to deal with the complexities and uncertainties of the COVID-19 on refugees and migrants.

The objectives of the webinar were among others to:
 Assess the current complexity of the migration factors and actors in SADC countries
during the COVID-19
 Discuss the fundamental rights and obligations of migrants, migration management
and protection of migrants and how they are applied in various SADC countries
during the COVID-19
 Share best practices and discuss ways to work together
 Discuss on how to interact with policy makers to advocate for the rights of migrants
and refugees during the pandemic and post COVID-19.

The meeting started at 11:10 AM and was moderated by Joseph E Maniragena, a youth
activist and Development Practitioner.

In his opening remarks, Dr Ken Mutuma, Africa Unite Board Member, welcomed all
participants and thanked them for availing themselves though it was a public holiday; Dr Mutuma described Covid-19 as the most serious health emergency in generations and said it will have adverse effects on livelihoods but when it comes to Migrants, it will be worse. He reiterated that SAMIN should be a learning organisation which can be able to adapt due to various circumstances such as the pandemic of Covid-19. Dr Mutuma reflected on challenges being faced by grassroots communities and mostly Migrants and Refugees who don’t get support from host governments. He ended his intervention citing some of the Africa Unite interventions such as at how they are looking at supporting with food parcels for families facing starvation.

The next speaker was Dr Jean Pierre Misago, a researcher with the African Centre for
Migration & Society (ACMS) at the University of the Witwatersrand who shared with
participants some of the work being done by the ACMS during this time such as measuring various policies being declared in SADC countries to contain the pandemic and their implications to refugees and migrants; Some of their findings confirm that migrants are being discriminated when it comes to support such as food parcels or health services; they have also noticed increasing in wrongful arrests; and when it comes to undocumented migrants, for them it is worse; no one is caring for them; Dr Misago concluded saying that for the public health to succeed there is a need to include everyone otherwise you will be harming your own people, because once a refugee is infected, the pandemic will not select who is next to catch it. He also asked SAMIN members to find out if there is any specific intervention to stop the Covid 19 into refugees’ camps for countries that have camps 19 but also how are refugees surviving.

Sharing Experiences
Father Rampe of the Jesuits movement shared some good experience; he said that the
University of Kimwanza in DRC had produced a ventilator which will help hospitals in the area for people in the hospital needing ventilator. Also the university has come up with gel disinfectants used to clean areas. In Zambia and Malawi, they have just appointed a Focal Point to coordinate their actions; they will also be using a local radio to disseminate information on Covid-19 using mainly local language; and in Zimbabwe their Silverer House which is a vocational school will embark on making masks.

Dr Callixte Kavuro, Academic and Lawyer at RDTJ speaking on Refugees in South Africa said that in principle government agree that refugees should be protected but does little to protect them.

Serge who joined from DRC shared with the participants that nothing specific was being
done in DRC and feared that once the pandemic outbreak get into the North of the country, will make more damage as there was even war going on even now. There is little if not any national authority and wondered who will care for those infected. He made a plea for SAMIN to seriously look into how they can come to rescue of refugees in DRC mainly North Kivu.

Dr Sibanda Vusumuzi, the Chair of the African Diaspora Forum spoke on the issue of Truck drivers who transport essential goods and food in SADC and who were being mistreated once they cross borders on the other country; he warned that if this is not resolved it can have a dire consequences on countries economy as well as food security.
Dr Sibanda called on the Network to intensify calls for support for migrants and refugees as the winter is kicking in things may be difficult without clothes for winter.

Dr. Janet Munakamwe spoke on the issue of the UIF ( SA) an d noted that even the ILO has issued a statement about it saying that migrants are being excluded despite them having contributed. She will invite the ILO official in our next webinar to share some perspecives on the issue as well other issues regarding migrants workers and lockdowns.

José Muianga shared the experience in Mozambique and called the Network to also
consider the issue of violence against women during the pandemic.


Participants dicussed and analysed the situation around refugees and migrants during the crises of COVID 19 in Southern Africa. Issues discussed include:

i. Different interventions by government tend to leave out Refugees and
migrants in relief strategies on both economic and social relief funds in many
Southern African countries including South Africa on Food relief, testing and
screening, access to social welfare especially for workers and unlawful
retrenchments as in the case of drivers from Zimbabwe.
ii. The team advised on long term implications on some decisions made by
governments like the building of fence in Zimbabwean border.
iii. No government has declared any stand for refugees living in camps
iv. Disease mishandling upon information release to the public and containment
of the disease in most SADC countries like the DRC and Botswana respectively.
Due to lockdown its difficult for most lobbying and advocacy work to be done, team
discussed on ways to have public interventions which has to be inclusive so as to challenge government to listen and rectify situations. Also coordination of people and groups that are willing to support those who are in desperate need.

Way Forward

Participants agreed on the following key actions and urgent tasks moving forward:


o Formation of SAMIN COVID-19 Task-team which will cover two themes: one on
humanitarian component including social and economic issues and the other on
Legal component which will focus on documentation and evaluation of legal
barriers. Task members to highlight specific issues with evidence based information.

o Form SAMIN COVID-19 task-team dealing with legal and humanitarian components the Secretariat will assist in forming them as well as help them to meet online
o Coordinate groups organizations and individuals who are willing to support refugees
and migrants on food relief
o Write proposals on how migrants are treated in different countries during the crisis
of Corona virus, evaluate/analyse situations come up with both moral and legal
arguments
o Create a WhatsApp group for SAMIN members to allow for timely communication
because not everyone can access their email during lockdowns.
o Ask government for permit for SAMIN as network to work during the lockdown

All in attendance had agreed that during times of crisis we should rally together, defend the defenseless and remain resolute of our cause after the crises is overcome.

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