SUBJECT FOR DISCUSSION: PROMOTING HARMONIOUS CO-EXISTENCE AND RESPECT FOR THE RIGHTS OF ALL PERSONS, INCLUDING FOREIGN NATIONALS, AS ENJOINED BY OUR CONSTITUTION
SPEECH BY REV KRJ MESHOE MP
Despite summits, conferences, and the many initiatives and programmes government has initiated to encourage social cohesion and nation-building, deep divisions between community members are still glaringly apparent and prejudice, in its many forms, remains a key concern. Stubborn racist attitudes from both whites and blacks, and the stereotyping of foreign nationals, undermines harmonious co-existence and respect for those who look different to them.
The ACDP regrets and is saddened by the harsh and unfair treatment of foreign nationals in our country. We find these attacks and looting of their businesses deplorable, and condemn them in the strongest possible terms. We believe this behaviour is indicative of how violent, uncompassionate and insensitive our society has become.
The ACDP believes that there are a few things that government can do to stop xenophobic attacks on innocent foreign nationals who have come to legally seek refuge and employment in our country.
They include firstly, that government should be seen to be promoting harmonious co-existence and respect for the rights of all persons, including foreign nationals and unborn babies. The right to life, particularly of the unborn and most vulnerable in society must be protected by government.
Secondly, government should investigate reasons and excuses that are used to justify attacks on foreign nationals.
If one looks at where most foreign nationals are attacked, one would discover that it is primarily in the townships and government should look at the reasons why this is the case. Many township residents, for example, have consistently complained that foreign-owned spaza shops are subsidised, leaving them unable to complete because their own government refuses to subsidise them in order to level the playing field. The ACDP urges government to look into this as a matter of urgency.
Unity and peaceful co-existence among locals and foreign nationals is possible. Take the example of Hillbrow – somebody said Hillbrow – in Hillbrow you do not have the kind of attacks on foreign nationals as you have in many of our townships. You have people working there, side by side, and where intolerance is very low and threats of intimidation is not found.
The ACDP believes that the rule of law should not discriminate on matters of criminality. Criminals must be punished, whether or not they are foreign nationals or South Africans.
Lastly, if government is to succeed in promoting harmonious co-existence and the respect for the rights of all, including foreign nationals, then they should also, among other things, shut down the ever-increasing number of brothels in our communities, because they serve as centres for the proliferation of illegal drugs, that have claimed the lives of thousands of children and torn many communities apart.”