On the 14th of March 2017, Africa Unite in partnership with the South African Spaza Shops Co- operative (SASCOP) and Somali Association of South Africa (SASA) held a roundtable discussion with different stakeholders in Khayelitsha’s Site C community. The discussion came as result of the recent surge of violence targeted at foreign nationals in Site C, which left 12 Somali shopkeepers dead between January and March 2017.
Among the different stakeholders, the following bodies were also present: Khayelitsha Development Forum (KDF), SANCO, Community Police Forum (CPF), United African Forum, local Pastors, Freedom House, Solomon Tshuku Advice Center, Youth Network Ambassadors of Change, local Somali business owners and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
During the discussion, the causes of violence against foreign nationals that were identified included:
✓ Lack of education and information among the communities about foreign nationals
✓ Stereotyping of foreign nationals (selling drugs, taking opportunities from local people and other criminal activities)
✓ Influx of foreign owned shops in townships which makes some of the local traders loose income
✓ Young people used by adults to attack foreign nationals for the benefit of local shop owners
✓ In some instances, it is foreign nationals themselves attacking each other for business
✓ Most foreign nationals do not participate in any community activities; often they isolate themselves, making them easy targets
✓ Unemployment and poverty is too high in townships and some young people see foreign nationals as a milk cow. Therefore, robbing them is appealing to those in a desperate situation
✓ A general culture of violence is prevalent
✓ Most foreign national shop owners do not have bank accounts which exposes them as easy targets
To avoid this roundtable discussion ending up as a talk show, all the stakeholders present made the following recommendations:
- An orientation system must be initiated for foreign nationals living in Site C for them to learn the local customs and cultures to avoid cultural differences
- Local (SASCOP) and foreign spaza shop owners should identify some common projects to create a platform for skills sharing among themselves
- The local Pastors through their Forum in Khayelitsha should initiate and promote teachings on tolerance within their congregations
- It was suggested to re-examine the xenophobic attacks of 2008 to see if there are any lessons that can be learned from it
- More human rights awareness education programmes about migrants, refugees and asylum seekers need to be initiated in the area on all levels (youth structures, traditional leaders, women’s groups, schools, etc.)
- The good stories of foreign nationals who have worked successfully with the local communities should be shared to demystify some of the stereotypes that all foreigners are criminals and drug dealers.
- Canvasing the community in Site C with surveys to further involve them in identifying the real causes of these attacks which left 12 Somali traders dead in a space of two months
- Crime and substance abuse was identified among others as one of the causes of the attacks against foreign nationals, however the stakeholders noted that, Khayelitsha, big as it is does not have any rehabilitation center. This matter needs to be raised with the City of Cape Town.
- It was suggested that a follow up dialogue should be held in Site C which will include the following stakeholders: Department of Small Business, the South African Police Service (SAPS) and local counsellors
We are grateful to all the stakeholders in attendance for their contributions and their offers to use their clout and individual connections to make further meetings and follow ups a success.
For more pictures, click here.