“Men2Men” Dialogue

On the 31st of July 2020, the Africa Unite Human Rights teams of Durban and Cape Town hosted an intergenerational, intercultural “Men2Men” webinar/ dialogue session, discussing the most pertinent issues facing South African men, where we missed our mark and how we can attempt to remedy these issues.

The session had Peer Educators participate from Kwa-Zulu Natal and the Western Cape as well as a few external participants. We also had the privilege to have speakers, Mr Claif Katsha, a religious and community leader in Mitchells Plain, Cape Town, Mr Nkosikhona General Mpungose; a community leader and active citizen from Durban, and Mr Keagan Gertse; a socio-political activist and Africa Unite Peer educator from Wellington in the Western Cape, the dialogue was attended by 15 young and old men coming from different provinces in South Africa.

Our participants engaging in dialogue

The purpose of the webinar was to create a platform where men could openly discuss issues with one another such as Gender-Based Violence, unemployment, mental health and morality.

Our speakers Spoke on challenges faced by young men who grew up in places such as Hanover Park on the Cape Flats as many of them fall prey to gangsterism, drugs & alcoholism was very demoralizing and led to him nearly leaving school at a young age. It was also added that because of growing up in such places and dropping out of school leads to them lacking morals and discipline which something you get if you grew up from a structure at home, without a strong family structure and strong male guidance our communities will continue to fall prey to societal ills and just perpetuate this vicious cycle. They stated that as men we have not just failed to step up in society but rather also failed ourselves, we chose comfort & pleasure over security and growth, and, if we ever seek to break this cycle of violence and poverty, we need to take responsibility for these problems and start mentoring the younger generation to avoid these cycles. We need to look within to solve the problem, we need to get involved at local schools, mentoring and cultivating young men to be functional and robust members of society.

They further, continued on a discussing “Moral regeneration in society”. Stating morality is a key way to restore wholesome leadership in South Africa as we currently live in a “broken society, led by broken men” and that this lays at the centre of many societal ills, we emulate what we see around us.  African families, tend to raise genders differently, we raise males to be entitled, as they are given everything and elevated in the family, this then translates to the entitlement we see in society, we fail to teach them how to handle rejection and this often translates violently. We, in turn, raise female children to be more docile and submissive, this should change, and we should change.  We should not just throw around the Zulu term “Indoda” (Man, colloquially used to address a leader or elder) loosely, young men especially should earn this type of title and should only be bestowed if one is deserving of such a title through his actions and character.

Moreover; religious leaders should be at the forefront of moral regeneration just as they were at the forefront of the struggle for freedom during the 20th century, regardless of the religious affiliation of those around them. The vital question that we need to ask ourselves as we continued is; what do we define as a man? Is it a heterosexual male, can homosexual and bisexual males also be included in this definition? One of our speakers mentioned that he strongly feels that it is accepted on a surface level in society but in reality, non-heterosexual males are often excluded from the definition of a man. He remarks that the structures that we use to define our lives or provide guidance (culture & religion) albeit important are proving too rigid for the current flow of society and definitions and structures should be relooked and reformed to be more inclusive and more flexible. They concluded by stating that we need to review these structures, so we can start understanding one another that we can start creating more of an understanding with the older generation, thus we can start spotting the root causes of these societal ills and break the cycle of violence, bigotry and misunderstanding.

Outcomes

As the dialogue continued the participants also contributed by to what had already been shared;

The first contribution was a question on why it was necessary to fight issues like GBV & unemployment during a global pandemic? In these crying times, we have women in our immediate spheres of influence that look to us for protection and guidance and we shouldn’t allow a pandemic to hold us back for fighting for what is right and Just.

Also, it was noted that we should not forget the role mental health plays in all of this and that we should start cultivating a spirit of dialogue with young men to express their emotions instead of allowing them to bottle it up which in turn leads to violent behavior, however, young women should also be encouraged to speak up if things are bothering them and not to shy away from this, civil society should lobby that more psychologists and social workers be employed in schools to fight this scourge of mental health issues.

One of the participants believes that an underrated tool in combatting these issues is interfaith, intercultural and intergenerational dialogue and mobilization. He feels that creating better understanding and committing to mobilization across the board will be a key tool in the war to be waged against these societal ills, he also believes that this pandemic has proven that the older guard or leadership should start handing over the baton of leadership.

Furthermore, it was stated that this concept of men civilly speaking to men excites and it very interesting. In conclusion, it was noted that it would be great to have engagements as today’s’ one continuing to grow because we need to get a full rounded perspective of the issues that hinder our progress as a State and as a people.

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Singamakhalipha continues its fight against Covid 19 through handing out hand sanitizers to underprivileged communities in Gugulethu

On Wednesday 22 July 2020, the Africa Unite Singamakhalipha team went out to the Europe informal settlement in Gugulethu to hand over hand sanitizers to the people living in the community. In the event, we had community members and leaders, chairperson of the leading committee, Mr. Dyasi Boneka, and secretary Asanda Bikwe. We have conducted the event outside the community hall. They have assisted us in the distribution of the sanitizers and making sure that regulations are maintained and that there was an order or members who were repeating on the taking the items as it was hard to identify when one is the same person since people had masks on. It was easy for them to identify as they were familiar with members of the community.

The aim was to conduct an awareness of the importance of sanitizing hands and how that will benefit one from protecting the spread of the coronavirus. To give the community members access to sanitizers which can often be inaccessible to some people living in disadvantaged communities.  In that way, they had an opportunity to experience or experiment with the use of the hand sanitizer and how effortless it is and saves water. To provide an awareness while they were queuing for their turn to access the sanitizer.

Children waiting in line to receive sanitizers and information on the drive

The facilitators engaged with community members in discussion while they were in ques to access the sanitizer where they addressed the myths and false information regarding the COVID-19. One of the facilitators randomly asked the members about their knowledge on the Covid-19 and to others about regulations. One of the members shared that for him, he does not believe that it does exist as much as they claim an increase of numbers, he does not have any person that close or he knows who had the virus. Other does not get why they should stay at home will protect them from getting the virus. They appreciated the access of sanitizer as they believe that washing the hands as a source of protection.

We managed to reach out to both the adults and children, we started with the school children aged 7 to 18 as at first were the majority which was organized by the community leaders. Later on, adults joined in and this resulted in the facilitators to split into two teams serving both the adults and children.

Residents receiving sanitizers from our team

When we arrived in the community, we were met by some of the leaders of the community at the local hall, where some children were already eagerly waiting for us to arrive. At first, we introduced ourselves to one of the leaders, who told us that there are mostly children around as the adults are at work. We then proceeded to hand out sanitizers to the children who were between the ages of 7-18, as we were handing these sanitizers to the children, we noticed an increasing number of adults appearing, this resulted in us having to split into two teams, one to continue handing out sanitizers to the children and one to see to the adults. Due to the increase in the number of adults, we had to limit the children’s line to the age group 12 -17, this caused some adults to become disgruntled, as they felt some of their children didn’t benefit from this handout, this issue was swiftly dealt with by the team and we continued our work unhindered.

Residents ready to receive sanitizers

By the end of the hour we spent in the community, more than 300 people benefited from the handing out of these sanitizers and we managed to help keep more hands germ and virus free. We hope we can continue to help keep our community’s virus free and sanitized, to help combat the spread and continue to maintain good relations with the people living in these communities.

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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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