SA govt agrees to xenophobia summit

A protester is seen during a march against xenophobia in Johannesburg. Picture: Yadhana Jadoo

The South African government has only now acceded to a request for a national summit on xenophobia which civil society began agitating for after the African Peer Review Mechanism sounded the alarm in 2007.

Laura Kganyago, a leading civil society representative on the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) noted that the APRM’s peer review report on South Africa in 2007 had warned of the danger of xenophobia. She said that civil society had begun calling for a national summit on xenophobia in response. But the government had not supported the idea because of the R2 million cost of funding the summit.

READ MORE: Xenophobia – we were warned

Kganyago is the deputy chairperson of the National Governing Council of the APRM in South Africa, the body of government and civil society representatives which manages South Africa’s APRM process.

She is also the director of the Women’s National Coalition.

She was speaking here at conference taking place here which aims to assess the progress of the APRM and to “re-energise” it. It is organised by the SA Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA) and the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy
in Africa (EISA).

Though she did not refer to this, President Thabo Mbeki’s government dismissed the warnings of impending xenophobic violence in 2007. A few months later in 2008 a major episode of violence against foreign nationals erupted.
Earlier this year there was another eruption.

Kganyago said civil society had undertaken consultations at provincial level after the APRM’s 2007 findings about xenophobia. “All the evidence we gathered there made us realise we needed a summit.

“But only now, through Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, have we got agreement to push ahead….if you don’t get political support, as civil society you are not able to start.”

Kganyago said that no date had yet been set for the national summit on xenophobia.

Local consultations had begun as steps towards this summit she said, including one last week in Yeoville which was chosen as that suburb and neighbouring Hillbrow and Berea had been identified as hot spots for xenophobia in Gauteng.

The imbizo which Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini had recently held in KwaZulu-Natal was also part of the process leading up the national summit, she said.

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