1. Executive Summary………………………………………………..Annexure A

2. A Report on the proceedings of hearings…………………………..Annexure B

3. A Summary of the Recommendations……………………………..Annexure C

4. Background Paper for Open Hearings……………………………..Annexure D


Annexure B

Open Hearings on Xenophobia and Related Problems
South African Human Rights Committee (SAHRC)
Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Foreign Affairs (PPFA)

Appendices *

Panelists *

Day One: 2 November 2004 *

Session One *

Chairperson: Mr Jody Kollapen, Chairperson, SAHRC *

Mr Dumisane J Sithole, Chairperson, PPFA *

Respondent: Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) *

Presenter: Kajaal Ramjathan-Keogh, LHR *

Respondent: National Consortium for Refugee Affairs (NCRA) *

Presenter: Joyce Tlou, National Co-ordinator, NCRA *

Session Two *

Chairperson: Zonke Majodina, Deputy Chairperson, SAHRC *

Respondent: Community Agency for Social Enquiry (CASE) *

Presenter: Ms Florencia Belvedere, Acting Director, CASE *

Session Three *

Chairperson: Mr DJ Sithole, Chairperson, PPFA *

Respondent: African Council of Hawkers and Informal Businesses (ACHIB) *

Livingstone Madala, South African Informal Trader, ACHIB *

Verbal Testimony *

Presenter: Ms Joyce Dube, Southern African Women Institute for Migration Affairs, SAWIMA *

Verbal Testimony *

Presenter: Mr Ndessomiu Dosso, Ivory Coast Refugee, CBRC *

Respondent: International Community Unifiers (ICU) *

Presenter: Richard Pillay, International Community Unifiers (ICU) *

Day Two: 3 November 2004 *

Session One *

Chairperson: Ms NB Gxoloa, MP, PPFA *

Respondent: United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) *

Presenter: Ms B Donkoh, UNHCR *

Respondent: WITs Forced Migration Project *

Presenter: Loren Landau, WITS Forced Migration Project *

Session Two *

Chairperson: Ms Gxoloa, MP, PPFA *

Respondent: The Refugee Centre *

Presenter: Emmanuel Ngwezi, The Refugee Centre *

Verbal Testimony *

Rev. Douglas Torr, St Mary’s Cathedral *

Verbal Testimony *

Bishop Paul Verryn, Central Methodist Church *

Verbal Testimony *

Presenter: Mr Tony Mokheseng, Johannesburg Justice and Peace *

Verbal Testimony *

Presenter: Mr Jack Kazari, St Francis *

Session Three *

Verbal Testimony *

Presenter: Mario Damianos Gregoriou, South African Citizen *

Respondent: Faze 2, South African Anti-Discrimination Forum *

Presenter: Bridget Kassan, Faze 2, South African Anti-Discrimination Forum *

Respondent: Coordinating body of refugee communities (CBRC) *

Presenter: Jacques Kamanga, CBRC *

Presenter: Augustine Babumba, CBRC *

Respondent: South African Police Services (SAPS) *

Presenter: Francois van Graan, SAPS *

Presenter: Commissioner Reddy, SAPS, Johannesburg *

Presenter: Provincial Commissioner Naidu, SAPS *

Respondent: South African National Defence Force *

Presenter: Brigadier Somdaka, SANDF *

Presenter: Lieutenant Colonel Cunter, SANDF *

Day Three: 4 November 2004 *

Respondent: Southern African Migration Project (SAMP) and the Institute for Democracy in South Africa (IDASA) *

Presenter: Ms Sally Peberdy, SAMP *

Recommendations: *

Respondent: Department of Foreign Affairs *

Presenter: Ms Josie xxx, Department of Foreign Affairs *

Respondent: Safer Africa *

Presenter: John Rosher, Analyst, Safer Africa *

Respondent: Department of Home Affairs *

Presenter: Hon. NN Mapisi –Nqakula, Minister of Home Affairs *

closure *

Participants *


Participants List

Background Paper: Open hearing on xenophobia and problems relating to it (SAHRC, 28 October 2004).


Mr Jody Kollapen, Chairperson, SAHRC

Ms Zonke Majodina, Deputy Chairperson, SAHRC

Mr Dumisane Job Sithole, Chairperson, PPFA

Ms Nonkumbi B Gxoloa, Member of Parliament, PPFA

Ms Hloni Mpaka, Member of Parliament, PPFA

Mr Mewa Ramgobin, Member of Parliament, PPFA

Mr Joe Seremane, Member of Parliament, PPFA

Mr Len K Joubert, Member of Parliament, PPFA

Mr Tom Manthatha, SAHRC

Day One: 2 November 2004

Session One

Chairperson: Mr Jody Kollapen, Chairperson, SAHRC

Mr Kollapen opened the meeting at 09h30. He welcomed participants to Human Rights House and extended a special welcome to Mr Sithole, the chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Foreign Affairs and his five-person delegation. Mr Kollapen went on to introduce Ms Zonke Majodina, the deputy chairperson of SAHRC and Mr Tom Manthata, also from the SAHRC

He explained how the meeting represented the first joint hearings between the SAHRC and a portfolio committee, saying that this gave credence to the partnerships, which are often talked about.

He went on to explain that according to the provisions set out in the South African Constitution the SAHRC is accountable to Parliament, who in turn has an important executive role to play.

Introducing xenophobia as an important issue of mutual concern, Mr Kollapen highlighted that these hearings represent a genuine attempt to promote democracy through ‘government by discussion’. He emphasised that the SAHRC and the PPFA do not have the answers to the difficult questions posed by xenophobia and the hearings would enable them to engage with broader society around these issues.

He recognised that xenophobia exists across the world and the implication is not that South Africa is more xenophobic than other countries but rather that concern stems from South Africa’s commitment to human rights, which recognises the inherent worth and dignity of every person regardless of their status in life. Xenophobia is in opposition to the very spirit of South Africa’s Constitution and the type of society that it depicts.

He reiterated that parliamentary hearings normally carry immunity and this immunity would also apply to these hearings on xenophobia. This should promote openness and the collection of a representative range of perspectives from all sectors of South African society including civil society, government agencies and individuals living in South Africa.

He concluded that the SAHRC and the Portfolio Committees would prepare a joint report and recommendations would be made.

Mr Dumisane J Sithole, Chairperson, PPFA

Mr Sithole thanked participants for supporting the portfolio hearings. He explained that the PPFA is interested in tackling this issue and how it relates to the Department of Foreign Affairs, including issues such as foreign affairs legislation. Agreeing that while xenophobia may be worse in other countries, he stressed that if the issue is not tackled head on it may become a greater problem.

He went on to explain that the PPFA is divided into two seventeen-member sub-committees. The panel at the xenophobia hearings included three members from each sub-committee, who would be responsible for reporting back to the remainder of the Portfolio Committee, who are currently in session in Parliament.

He went on to introduce the five representatives:

He revealed that the SAHRC has done significant work in promoting and protecting human rights in South Africa and the Portfolio Committee feel that they have an important role to play in coming up with recommendations around xenophobia.

He emphasised that South Africa, with its racist background, understands the suffering involved in discrimination. Because of this the country needs to be both proactive and to lead the rest of Africa. The hearings would help the Committee to hear testimony from the very individuals who are experiencing this discrimination so that an appropriate public policy can be developed and the issues can be understood accurately.

He reassured participants of the confidentiality of their testimonies and acknowledged that this initiative was overdue and should probably have taken place soon after the World Conference Against Racism (WCAR) in 2002.

Chairperson: Mr Jody Kollapen, Chairperson, SAHRC

Mr Kollapen thanked respondents who had submitted written submissions. He noted that not all written submissions would be presented because respondents were unable to attend the actual hearings. He also warned that there might be some deviation from the programme. Each respondent was allocated 20 minutes for their presentation followed by a short discussion and questions from panellists.

Respondent: Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR)

Presenter: Kajaal Ramjathan-Keogh, LHR

Providing some background information about LHR, Ms Ramjathan-Keogh highlighted that it was a national organisation which has sought to promote human rights since its inception in 1979. The Refugee Rights Project was established eight years ago to promote the rights of refugees and has also provided technical support to a number of government departments. She stated that LHR commends the rights-based framework contained within the Refugees Act of 1988, the Immigration Act as well as other pieces of legislation, which all discourage xenophobia. However, she stressed that xenophobia is still an obstacle to equality, dignity and freedom.

She revealed that among the global population of 6,3 billion people, there are an estimated 175 million migrants including over 14 million refugees and just over 1 million asylum seekers.

Her submission focused on four areas:

The issue of arrest and detention of migrants accused of being illegally in the country; the implications of the immigration enforcement mechanisms on unaccompanied migrant children and their best interests; the lack of integration of refugees in government services delivery frameworks and unfair labour practices.

She maintained that although the Refugees Act and Immigration Act go some way in protecting the rights of refugees and migrants government has failed to effectively implement it in a rights-friendly manner. Similarly government has failed to incorporate the concerns of refugees and migrants in other legislation and policies, such as social assistance and health care. As a result refugees and migrants are unable to access much needed assistance and protection. This sentiment has a roll over effect into the South African citizenry who feel their xenophobic attitudes justifiable in the face of the government practices.

She also noted that LHR is concerned about the conditions of detention and deportation nationally. From its observations of detentions at the Lindela Repatriation Centre and at the South African – Zimbabwean border (Beitbridge) the organisation is concerned that South Africa may not be living up to its international commitments and obligations in terms of its treatment of migrants especially asylum seekers and detainees. There is concern that South Africa may be returning asylum seekers to the country where their lives of freedoms may be a risk before they were given an opportunity to make applications for asylum.

She then went on to highlight various points:

Detention of children at Lindela Deportation Centre

The Centre for Child Law successfully appealed the case of 100 children in detention at Lindela Deportation Centre. This culminated in a precedent-setting judgement in October 2004. The judgement includes some of the following provisions:

Detention at Johannesburg International Airport

Increasingly private companies at the airport are detaining individuals in an attempt to avoid the payment of carrier sanctions for carrying undocumented migrants. Detainees are held in a small room without windows, furniture or other facilities.

Detention at the South Africa/Zimbabwe border

In September LHR conducted a three-day site visit to this border. During this time the South African Police Services (SAPS) and the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) deported over 1000 Zimbabweans. Most of those deported are detained in the Musina area where conditions are appalling. At the police station detainees are fenced in an outdoor enclosure under a tree. There is not access to no ablution facilities or water, and detainees are exposed to extremely hot weather conditions. Their detention can last from one hour to three days.

Discrimination in the workplace

Refugees and asylum-seekers are not accorded any material assistance from the government and are required to meet their own socio-economic needs. The private sector regulating authority has refused to register refugees and asylum-seekers, although this is required by legislation. This creates an environment that is conducive to exploitation because the basic conditions of employment for refugees and asylum-seekers are not enforced.

The security industry is the greatest employer of refugees and asylum-seekers. They experience high levels of exploitation in this sector. Nurses also are discriminated against.

Access to grants

Children and disabled refugees face greater challenges and risks than other refugees. South Africa’s social assistance legislation restricts grants to South African citizens or permanent residents. South Africa under the Constitution has a moral and legal obligation to protect and assist refugees and asylum-seekers. Given that refugees and asylum-seekers are not able to access protection of assistance from their countries of origin makes them even more vulnerable than permanent residents in a similar position and should therefore also have access to social assistance.

Ms Ramjathan-Keogh concluded:

South Africa has one of the world’s most liberal constitutions, which applies to all who live in the country. Foreigners living in South Africa cannot, however, derive the same benefit from it as South African citizens. Laws are not always operationalised by government. As a society South Africa’s treatment of foreigners needs to be challenged. This could be done through the establishment of an inter-governmental body using the recommendations developed during WCAR as a platform for action.

In closing Ms Ramjathan-Keogh stated that her submission provided a glimpse into some of the issues and challenges refugees and asylum-seekers face as a result of restrictive government policies and discriminatory implementation. LHR hopes that these hearings will increasing awareness of the plight of foreigners in South Africa and will motivate the government to recognise the extent of xenophobia not only in South African citizenry but in government practice, thereby reinforcing South Africa’s commitment to Africa.

Questions from the Panel

Mr Joubert asked:

Ms Ramjathan-Keogh responded:

Mr Ramgobin noted that:

Mr Ramgobin asked:

Ms Ramjathan-Keogh responded:

Mr Ramgobin concluded:

Mr Seremane asked:

Ms Ramjathan-Keogh responded:

Mr Manthata asked:

Ms Ramjathan-Keogh responded:

Ms Gxoloa commented:

Ms Ramjathan-Keogh responded:

Mr Sithole commented:

Ms Ramjathan-Keogh responded:


Respondent: National Consortium for Refugee Affairs (NCRA)

Presenter: Joyce Tlou, National Co-ordinator, NCRA

Ms Tlou thanked the SAHRC and the PPFA for the platform created by the hearings.

She went on to explain that as an association of refugee organisations, the NCRA focuses on policy issues. Its work is conducted through member organisations in the network. Initially started by LHR as one of their programmes, NCRA became a fully-fledged organisation after significant momentum had developed.

Ms Tlou prefaced her testimony by stating that the paper was based on the premise that the background paper had addressed issues relating to definitions, manifestations and causes of xenophobia. These would also be covered in greater detail during other submissions. The submission aimed to introduce some solutions, which could be used by the SAHRC and the PPFA to address xenophobia as a form of discrimination based on a person’s nationality. The NCRA’s submission focused on policy issues.

In her submission, Ms Tlou noted:

Ms Tlou recommended:

Citing the example of the cross-sectoral Roll Back Xenophobia Campaign, Ms Tlou emphasised that there is only so much that NGOs are able to do. She appealed to government to play its role. This would create an environment where NGOs would compliment but not supplement government’s role. In this way South Africa would be significantly contributing to the fulfilment of durable solutions to refugees and affording refugees an enabling environment to live in dignity.


Mr Joubert commented:

Ms Tlou responded:

Mr Sithole commented:

Ms Tlou responded:

Mr Ramgobin commented:

Ms Tlou responded:


Session Two

Chairperson: Zonke Majodina, Deputy Chairperson, SAHRC

Ms Majodina introduced Ms Belvedere from CASE, saying that CASE’s submission is informative, providing a number of solutions.

Respondent: Community Agency for Social Enquiry (CASE)

Presenter: Ms Florencia Belvedere, Acting Director, CASE

Ms Belvedere thanked organisers for this opportunity and stressed the need to develop the type of partnerships that had been discussed during the previous session along with the establishment of a number of entities. Ms Belvedere maintained that one of the main ways of addressing xenophobia would involve taking proactive steps to change perceptions and treat people in accordance with the South African Constitution.

Ms Belvedere provided an overview of CASE, an applied research NGO established in 1985. During apartheid this organisation play a key role in advocating for sanctions. Currently they are involved in a number of projects with government including evaluations of government programmes. They have also done extensive research around refugees and asylum-seekers.

Ms Belvedere revealed that CASE’s submission was drawn from some of this research, including:

In the baseline survey African refugees and asylum-seekers were interviewed to give their opinion of South Africans. Almost two thirds of the 1500 interviewees felt that South Africans did not like foreigners – e.g. they used terms like makwerekwere or were openly hostile. On the question of how they think foreigners perceive them, they reported perceptions that they are here to steal wives and jobs. These illustrate the negative perceptions, which exist whether they are true or not. They occur at the level of both society and government.

Ms Belvedere said she welcomed the proactive steps being taken by the PPFA and the SAHRC. She commended government for the introduction of specific legislation to govern refugee affairs but felt that there seems to have been limited progress in its implementation. A number of initiatives have been undertaken to promote awareness about different types of foreigners and the contribution they make but government has been reluctant to embrace these issues. A multi-pronged approach is required in order to promote a meaningful change in South Africans’ attitudes towards foreigners.

CASE’s submission explored some practical long and short-term interventions that can begin to initiate this attitudinal change. It was emphasised that these recommendations require commitment from all sectors.

Ms Belvedere highlighted the recommendations contained in CASE’s submission:

Ms Belvedere concluded that the reason that this submission focused on government was that although a number of initiatives have been introduced by civil society organisations it is the government which has the ability to make a profound difference. They currently seem to lack a sense of ownership, commitment and involvement. Officials who are guilty of xenophobia need to be conscientised as they are largely responsible for the perpetuation of stereotypes. It is critical that all these are addressed proactively, rather than waiting until foreigners are being used for dog training.

Questions from the Panel

Ma Gxoloa commented:

Ms Belvedere responded:

Mr Seremane commented:

Ms Belvedere responded:

Mr Joubert commented:

Ms Belvedere responded:

Ms Mpaka commented:

Ms Belvedere responded:

Mr Sithole commented:

Ms Belvedere responded:

Mr Ramgobin commented:

Ms Belvedere responded:

Mr Manthata commented:

Session Three

Chairperson: Mr DJ Sithole, Chairperson, PPFA

Mr Sithole introduced the afternoon programme, which would consist of two oral testimonies and two organisational submissions.

Respondent: African Council of Hawkers and Informal Businesses (ACHIB)

Livingstone Madala, South African Informal Trader, ACHIB

Mr Madala described xenophobia as a blanket hate for people from different countries. He stressed that South African hawkers do not hate foreigner traders and that the Council’s leadership is opposed to any form of xenophobia. He also acknowledged that there is a degree of friction between the two groups.

Prior to 1994 South Africa’s economy had been growing at the rate of 1% per annum. In the first ten years since 1994 growth has increased to 3%. This needs to be evaluated, however, in context of the high numbers of African foreigners entering the economy and whether it is growing fast enough to absorb the influx.

Mr Madala proposed that while South Africa’s economy could probably accommodate legal migrants it would not be able to absorb undocumented migrants.

He highlighted a number of issues:

Questions from the Panel

Mr Ramgobin asked Mr Madala to elaborate on corruption and the impact of new trading regulations on foreign traders.

Mr Madala responded:

Ms Mpaka commented:

Mr Madala responded:

Mr Madala concluded by saying that the African Council of Hawkers and Informal Business is ready to engage with government to develop solutions.

He appealed to government to assist by:

Mr Sithole commented:

Mr Madala responded:

Mr Sithole found this difficult to accept but offered to take the issue of falsified identity documents up with the provincial commissioner of police if there was any evidence. Mr Madala agreed to bring nine falsified identity documents, which he had in his possession, to Mr Sithole the following day.

Mr Joubert commented:


Verbal Testimony

Presenter: Ms Joyce Dube, Southern African Women Institute for Migration Affairs, SAWIMA

Ms Dube told of how, as mothers of the nation, a group of women living in South Africa came together to promote ubuntu among immigrants. The Institute soon realised that a number of women had not obtained legal refugee or asylum seeker status and it made it difficult for them to engage in projects. Asylum-seekers start queuing in the Department of Home Affairs in Rosettenville from 16h00 for the following morning. Protection letters from human rights lawyers do not seem to make a difference, since asylum-seekers with protection letters are still not awarded status. Zimbabweans with protections letters are told that there is no war in Zimbabwe.

She added that there is widespread police harassment among Zimbabweans. People are treated as murderers, asylum papers are torn up and candidates are told to go back and talk to [President] Mugabe.

Ms Dube went on to talk about Lindela Deportation Centre, saying that women who have approached SAWIMA for assistance or support say that Lindela is dirty, detainees get sick and some die. Next of kin are not notified when a detainee dies.

She also cited examples of how some Zimbabweans have been ill treated in South Africa and demonstrated how they would avoid deportation at all costs:

Some Zimbabweans will say they are from Malawi so they that if they are deported they don’t have to go back to Zimbabwe. Last week five people died when they tried to jump off moving trains bound for Zimbabwe in an attempt to avoid deportation. There are other examples: A number of Zimbabweans have been eaten by crocodiles while trying to cross the border, or died by jumping out of the train when it is inside a tunnel; one asylum-seeker was ‘helped’ off the train by police; another got pushed under the it; an MDC supporter was beaten for having an MDC t-shirt; and pregnant women are turned away from Johannesburg Hospital.

Ms Dube said that SAWIMA has started workshops to educate immigrant women about their rights. These deal with topics such as HIV/Aids and with children’s rights in regard to healthcare and social assistance in South Africa.

She also told of how the poorest immigrants do not have any form of social or community life and they find their solace in over-drinking. She felt that employers employ immigrants because they can exploit them without the threat of legal action.

She concluded by appealing for opportunities for refugees and asylum-seekers to give something back to South Africa saying that they are talented and well educated; including manufacturers, scientists, pharmacists and artisans.

Verbal Testimony

Presenter: Mr Ndessomiu Dosso, Ivory Coast Refugee, CBRC

Mr Dosso testified that he came to South Africa ten years ago from the Ivory Coast. He felt that in terms of xenophobia there has been a paradigm shift since 1994. In 1995 the media, academics and even politicians promoted xenophobic perceptions. Their aim was to rid South Africa of foreigners.

Mr Dosso remembered how, in 1995, a politician threatened: ‘We will chase all of them, we will make sure that we budget for them to go back.’

He also cited an example of a Soweto workshop he attended in 1996 where he was told by an official from the Department of Home Affairs to go home. When he met this same man in 2003 it was the reverse.

In his opinion, Mr Dosso said that the media, academics and politicians had misled the masses but now xenophobia occurs mainly at an institutional level. There has been a significant decreases in xenophobia since 1998.

Mr Dosso agreed with earlier sentiments that there is not an inherent dislike of foreigners among South Africans and it is the system that is promoting xenophobia.

He told of how he had recently been driving to work and accidentally crossed a yellow line. A policeman pulled him over, started swearing and demanded his license. Upon receipt of the license he said, ‘another foreigner - that is why the country is coming down every day.’

Mr Dosso went on to explain how - a year after coming to South Africa - he established a training centre conducting community work in 11 schools across Soweto, reaching 909 participants and raising funds to support the centre.

His testimony was in stark contrast to common misperceptions held by South Africans such as the policeman who pulled him over.

He emphasised that much is being done at a grassroots level in the inner city. The Johannesburg Stakeholders Forum meets together regularly to coordinate projects and share experiences. He suggested that Parliament and decision makers endorse this Forum as a best practice model around which they could find workable solutions and build constructive interactions. He concluded that the focus should be on strategies rather than on xenophobia that perpetuates itself.

Respondent: International Community Unifiers (ICU)

Presenter: Richard Pillay, International Community Unifiers (ICU)

(Formerly International Organisation of Foreigners [INOF])

Mr Pillay expressed his appreciation to certain individuals within the South African Police Services (SAPS) and the Department of Home Affairs by listing their names. He also thanked various consulates for their assistance to non-South African nationals and reported that ICU is currently compiling a list of unhelpful officials.

Mr Pillay explained that his organisation, in order to be more inclusive, had changed its name from the International Organisation of Foreigners, to the International Community Unifiers. He stressed the importance of this name change.

Mr Pillay provided the following recommendations:

This submission focuses on African and Asian immigrants. ICU research suggests that white immigrants do not face the same pressures as blacks and Asians.

Noting that:

Mr Pillay recommended:

He believed that a historical context would emerge from the hearings, which would analyse the role of the past, e.g. the role of the church.

He concluded by saying that unless stakeholders are honest in their deliberations a resolution will not emerge. He acknowledged that any resolutions are likely to have budgetary implications and suggested that mechanisms be introduced to fund these efforts on an ongoing basis. For instance, when foreigners die in South Africa, he felt that there should be mechanisms to ensure that these people receive a dignified burial.

He recommended the introduction of an educational programme that would include the media and encouraged NGOs to create an enabling environment. He felt that if ICU facilitated this process more NGOs would become involved. In particular he emphasised developing a partnership between ICU and the SAHRC, other NGOs, PPFA and the Home Affairs Portfolio Committee so that future attempt to engage will be carried out in the spirit of collaboration, cooperation and unity.

Questions from the Panel

Mr Seremane commented:

Ms Dube is to be commended for being a mother and for taking the initiative to make a different as an individual. Mr Dosso is also commended for the way he tackled his problem.

Mr Ramgobin thanked Mr Dosso and Ms Dube, saying that their testimonies were an inspiration. He also thanked ICU and noted that the recommendations would be taken seriously. He expressed the opinion that Mr Pillay and the ICU should act as a joint custodian of the process. He added that it is time that countries that sell arms assumed responsibility for this.

Mr Joubert concluded by highlighting a golden rule, which he felt would be beneficial in the context of xenophobia: ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’

Mr Sithole commented:

Ms Majodina thanked participants for their time and their contributions. The meeting was closed at 16h50.


Day Two: 3 November 2004

Session One

Chairperson: Ms NB Gxoloa, MP, PPFA

Ms Gxoloa opened the second day of the hearings by welcoming participants and introducing the first submission.

Respondent: United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR)

Presenter: Ms B Donkoh, UNHCR

Ms Donkoh extended her appreciation to the SAHRC and the PPFA for the public hearings and to participants for their interest in the process. She stated that UNHCR’s submission focused on the impact of xenophobia on refugees in South Africa.

She commented that the timing of this intervention is fitting because it coincides with South Africa’s celebration of their first ten years as a democracy. She cautioned that although UNHCR’s submission may omit some views, partners such as LHR and others had presented these.

Ms Donkoh provided a background to the UNHCR’s submission:

Ms Donkoh went on to explain that refugees and asylum-seekers are confronted with a number of obstacles in their attempts to attain dignity and normality in their new surroundings. These include lengthy bureaucratic delays in obtaining documentation, the inability to access government social assistance and a lack of access to educational and employment opportunities. Many refugees and asylum-seekers have few options but to engage in hawking. Most refugees are willing to persevere in order to integrate into their communities.

The prevalence of xenophobia makes them susceptible to street crime, wrongful arrest and detention. These create a climate where refugees feel unsafe and unable to exercise their human rights. Ms Donkoh outlined a number of examples recorded since 1994 where refugees and asylum-seekers have been targeted, attacked, maimed or even killed.

She proposed that xenophobic sentiment is getting more sinister in South Africa with public servants victimising refugees and asylum-seekers. Example of this form of xenophobia include instances where:

In 1998 against the backdrop of xenophobia the UNHRC, SAHRC and NCRA launched the Roll Back Xenophobia Campaign. The Campaign coordinates public awareness and educational activities throughout the country. The Campaign was also run on radio and television and it profiled former refugees currently in leadership positions in South Africa, who spoke publicly about their stories. There were some interventions where provincial and national government also became involved.

Xenophobia is not limited to South Africa. It flourished initially in the northern hemisphere when poor immigrants from the southern hemisphere were invading these wealthier countries. This demonstrates how xenophobia is linked to insecurity and fears about the distribution of resources and competition. Economic migrants and refugees who flee dangerous war situations are perceived differently. But each category of people on the move has its own needs and requires to be treated with dignity and humanity. Refugees need international protection and economic migrants need their labour and fundamental human rights to be respected.

Ms Donkoh appealed to South Africans to show ubuntu and human solidarity towards those who are forced to flee violence and persecution, rather than confronting them with harassment and xenophobia.

UNHCR’s submission made the following recommendations:

Questions from the Panel

Mr Seremane commented:

Mr Joubert commented:

Ms Donkoh responded:

Mr Ramgobin commented:

The chairperson reminded panellists to keep their inputs brief, confining them to questions rather than statements.

Ms Majodina defended the SAHRC’s alleged withdrawal from the Roll Back Xenophobia Campaign explaining that in 2002 the co-ordinator of the Campaign, who was housed at SAHRC, relocated to NCRA in Pretoria. This distance meant that the SAHRC lost their link to a close working relationship with the other partners in the Campaign. The Campaign still continues as a partnership between NCRA, UNHCR and SAHRC. SAHRC still conducts training for the Campaign, although activities are not planned together as closely as they were in the past.

Ms Majodina responded to the submission’s recommendation on the SAHRC’s mandate to monitor the socio-economic rights of refugees. She said that the Commission continues to circulate protocols in government departments outlining what services are being provided for refugees and asylum-seekers. The Commission also continues to monitor government’s progress around the implementation of the Refugees Act and the protection of the socio-economic rights of refugees and asylum-seekers. The Commission’s latest monitoring report maintains that little progress has been made over the past twelve months.

Ms Majodina acknowledged that the SAHRC is under-resourced and increased fund would enable the Commission to increase the quality and number of its interventions.

Ms Majodina noted that the protection of the socio-economic rights of refugees and asylum-seekers – particularly in areas like healthcare and education - is the greatest problem. She appealed to the UNHCR to develop a document of international best practice models and key guidelines to enable the SAHRC to really advocate for the protection of these rights.

Mr Manthata raised the issue of the visibility of the UNHCR in South Africa. He maintained that the High Commission does not appear to repudiate crime, discern between different types of refugees (i.e. genuine refugees and economic migrants) and distinguish between different behaviours.

Ms Donkoh responded:

The chairperson revealed that a number of the submission’s recommendations for the Department of Home Affairs are already in the pipeline. She added that the Department was one of the most dubious during apartheid and activities are well underway towards its restructuring. She thanked panellists for their questions.


Respondent: WITs Forced Migration Project

Presenter: Loren Landau, WITS Forced Migration Project

Mr Landau applauded the xenophobia hearings and explained that the fear of academics is that their work will only ever be distributed in academic circles. He hoped that his testimony would reach beyond academia.

The Project’s submission challenged five unfounded myths that inform public attitudes to non-citizens (including economic migrants):

Myth 1

South Africa is being overrun with foreigners. Foreigners represent a tiny proportion of South Africa’s population. It is estimated that there are less than 150 000 foreigners among a population of 40 million South Africans. Even conservative estimates only put this figure at 850 000 which represents less than 2% of South Africa’s total population. In countries like Toronto and Tanzania around 40% of the population are foreign born. The number of Zimbabweans has grown in the last ten years but rumours that there are 2 – 3 million Zimbabwean living in South Africa are implausible. These numbers must therefore be kept in perspective.

Myth 2

Foreigners are needy public burden on social services. The former Minister of Home Affairs and the Mayor of Johannesburg have made statements to this effect. Since non-nationals represent such a tiny percentage of residents they are unlikely to cost a lot in social services. Services are overburdened but this is a result of the widespread urbanisation of South Africans from rural areas moving to the cities in search of employment. Many foreigners are denied services and this further limits their impact.

Myth 3

Foreigners are an economic threat to South Africa. There is a widespread assumption that non-nationals are stealing jobs from South Africans. While many foreigners are better educated they should not be characterised as a threat. On the contrary, statistics show that they increase jobs; are more likely to employ staff; and tend to mainly employ South Africans. Internationally there is evidence to suggest that immigration provides a net benefit to countries. Their work ethic is also superhuman.

Myth 4

Immigration can be stopped. South Africa lacks the capacity to prevent people from crossing into South Africa. Even the US with all their measures and capacity are unable to prevent people from crossing into the US at the Mexico border. Their measures do, however, increase the death rate of people who try. South Africa is even less likely to succeed. Furthermore, this ethos of control has negative consequences.

There is a gaping skills gap in the South Africa labour market and recognition of the need to import skilled labour but skilled non-nationals who already in South Africa are excluded. Government policies should certainly protect the rights of citizens, but South African policy has made it illegal to hire non-nationals. Government has deprived itself from an important source of revenue.

The criminalisation of non-nationals has opened opportunities for police corruption and illegality. Because foreigners are denied access to banking services many are forced to carry large amounts of cash and some police see them as mobile ATMs. Those arrested for immigration offences are subject to a privatised realm of law enforcement, existing largely outside of government regulation and public observation. The quest for control has given rise to policing strategies, which although targeting non-nationals threaten the security and rights of South Africans. The corruption surrounding Lindela leads to rights abuses rather than protecting the country from those who wish to commit criminal acts. Once established, those benefiting from corruption will resist reform and may spread their influence in yet unaffected government institutions. The recent scandal around the non-national illegal marriages to South Africans is illustrative of this.

Myth 5

Migration policy is only a concern of national government. Because immigration affects two or more sovereign states migration is not only a concern of national government, there is a need for it to be addressed through regional migration instruments. As political decentralisation and devolution continues, migration management will in effect be transferred to local governments who are already charged with overseeing and spearheading the development of their communities. Effective immigration and asylum policy must therefore be developed together with local authorities in line with local priorities. The WITS Project has copies of a recent publication that outlines ways in which this could be done.

Mr Landau concluded by listing a number of issues that should inform any consideration of a migrant policy

Learn from other regions. Don’t borrow laws or seek to legitimise repressive policies simply because they have been enacted elsewhere. Recognise the specific context and legislate accordingly.

Develop mechanisms to track migration trends. Accept that migration and immigration will continue and that non-citizens have the potential to make important contributions to the regional economy. The shift from a control ethos to one that focuses on managing. Starting by understanding migration flows and their social, economic and political effects.

Incorporate local government into migrant management. Turn migration into a developmental rather than policing issue by expanding responsibility beyond national government agencies and department.

Reconsider citizenship and residency laws. There is little support for European-style regional citizenship and unrestricted movements. There is, however, the need to recognise that movements do take place and many people spend the majority of their lives working in a country where they don’t have citizenship. This suggests the need to rethink the terms under which people access social services, participate in decision making and protect their rights.

While the South African Government, SADC and NEPAD aim to halt globalisation and enhance the regional integration into the global economy these are not supported by the legal mechanisms needed to manage migration.

Questions from the Panel

Mr Ramgobin commented:

Mr Seremane commented:

Ms Majodina commented:

Mr Landau responded:

Mr Ramgobin commented:

Mr Landau responded:

Mr Manthata commented:

Mr Landau responded:

Ms Majodina clarified:

Ms Gxoloa suggested conducting further research into non-national illegal marriages.

Session Two

Chairperson: Ms Gxoloa, MP, PPFA

Respondent: The Refugee Centre

Presenter: Emmanuel Ngwezi, The Refugee Centre

Mr Ngwezi’s submission focused on the practical side of the experience of the church.

He provided a background to church initiatives in the Johannesburg inner city:

During the past the church stood by the oppressed and marginalized but over time, this situation changed. A new challenge facing the church is the influx of foreigners, specifically refugees and asylum seekers. The Johannesburg inner city is home to a number of non-nationals who are unemployed, homeless and want to legalise their status in South Africa. This presents the church with a difficult challenge. Furthermore, within the church there are also xenophobic tendencies but there is also the belief that all belong to the body of Christ. If one part suffers the whole part suffers.

From this thinking emerged the idea of establishing the Refugee Centre, a joint inter-denominational initiative between the Anglican, Methodist and Catholic Churches in Johannesburg. The Centre opened office this year. Its focus was to sensitise society to xenophobia, starting with the congregations. The church has the potential to reach large numbers of individuals and impact on their perceptions and attitudes.

The Centre also focuses on a number of specific areas including access to Departments of Home Affairs, healthcare, housing or shelter. In both the UN and OAU convention guidelines it is clear that asylum-seekers have the right to a dignified asylum process.

The asylum process at Rosettenville has been commercialised. Asylum-seekers have to pay for services. The meaning of being a humanitarian process has been flouted. The backlog will never disappear because bribery is involved. Asylum-seekers pay from R500 to R1500 for their applications. Queues last for weeks and many give up. It makes no difference to raise these issues with the Department of Home Affairs.

Mr Ngwezi highlighted three priority areas for action:

He concluded by saying that these are some of the difficulties faced by refugees and asylum-seekers in South Africa. While they are not necessarily unique to South Africa they do reflect a country’s beliefs with regard to the outside world.

Verbal Testimony

Rev. Douglas Torr, St Mary’s Cathedral

Rev. Torr, one of the founder members of the Refugee Centre, also testified how the church works with refugees and asylum-seekers in Johannesburg:

Rev. Torr presented some recommendations aimed at church leaders:

Verbal Testimony

Bishop Paul Verryn, Central Methodist Church

Bishop Verryn opened by relating a moving story that had taken place that morning. He received an early telephone call informing him that a young refugee member of his congregation had attempted to commit suicide by throwing himself through a window in the church sanctuary.

He went on to describe the desperation that drives many refugees to insanity:

Bishop Verryn’s testimony addressed three main areas:

Bishop Verryn concluded by calling for a year full of campaigning to start to conscientise a nation about those that suffer. "Help us to serve the South African community," he ended.

Questions from the Panel

Mr Ramgobin commented:

Mr Seremane commented:

Ms Phaka commented:

Mr Manthata commented:

Ms Majodina commented:

Mr Ngwezi responded:

Referring to an earlier incident where she had made a faux pas in the introductions of Mr Ngwezi and Rev. Torr, the chairperson, Ms Gxoloa, commented that there are times when individuals, through their own impatience with each other, are the cause of xenophobia. She appealed to participants to remain simple at these hearings, saying that each input will be analysed and participants must ensure that their inputs are constructive.

Responding to Ms Gxoloa, Rev. Torr explained that he had not intended to come across as impatient, he was simply clarifying that he is not from the SACC, which has its own desk and he may not speak on their behalf.

Bishop Verryn responded:

The chairperson concluded that, during the previous testimonies, she had been struck by the church’s untapped potential. The church has the extraordinary power to reach people, from all walks of life, and provide them with information – information about social grants, legislation, human rights and other issues. Racism started in church and xenophobia. At one point the Mothers Union in the African Methodist Church were looking into the idea of issuing birth certificates and administering social grants through the church.

Ms Gxoloa also reminded participants of where the Department of Home Affairs has come from, saying that during apartheid it was the most notorious department. It is also the most important department through which everyone passes, when they are born, when they marry and when they die. It must become strong and friendly. It is not just about getting an ID.


Verbal Testimony

Presenter: Mr Tony Mokheseng, Johannesburg Justice and Peace

Mr Mokheseng said that his submission was simple and user-friendly written in township language. He explained that he works for the Catholic Bishop’s office in Johannesburg. He thanked the Commission and the PPFA for this opportunity and went on to highlight a few issues:

Mr Mokheseng introduced Jack Kazani, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo, (DRC).

Verbal Testimony

Presenter: Mr Jack Kazari, St Francis

Mr Kazari highlighted some of the day-to-day problems of being a refugee:

Police come and search your house without a warrant. If they find money they take it and go. You need the UN travel document if they ask you for an interview. If a refugee has a driver’s licence, which has not been translated into English, the police will arrest that person. They told to go to the high commission of the country of their origin to get the translation of their drivers’ license, yet as refugees they cannot approach their country’s high commission. ‘Hakuna Manthata’ means the same the in many African languages. So why do we fight? And if Kaiser Chiefs scores a goal why is it a problem at Department of Home Affairs?

The chairperson thanked Mr Kazari for his light and lively input. The meeting was adjourned for lunch.

Session Three

Verbal Testimony

Presenter: Mario Damianos Gregoriou, South African Citizen

Mr Ramiro related how on three separate instances, he has experience acts of police harassment:

They asked where I was from and I told them South Africa. They swore at me and demanded my papers. I had to speak in Afrikaans before they would believe that I was actually South Africa. They accused me of being Pakistani. The second time was almost exactly the same. In separate incident I witnessed a person getting being accused of similar offences arrested. I didn’t report these incidents because I knew that nothing would happen and I would be victimised because they know me well in my neighbourhood.

Respondent: Faze 2, South African Anti-Discrimination Forum

Presenter: Bridget Kassan, Faze 2, South African Anti-Discrimination Forum

Ms Kassan explained that the Faze 2 had been formed during WCAR’s NGO Forum.

She also introduced participants to a number of documents which were used in the compilation of Faze 2’s submission, including: The programme of action emerging from WCAR NGO Forum; SAHRC’s Millennium Statement; World Fit for Children, Faze Two concept document and the South African Constitution.

She highlighted the need to look at South Africa’s background of separate development, which fostered an environment of distrust. She added that most refugees aren’t accorded human rights. Racism is alive and there are not mechanisms to deal with it. Furthermore, there is still racism within government department and this is a breeding ground for xenophobia.

She outlined a number of different responsibilities for various stakeholders:

Government were called to:

Business were called to:

Civil society was called to:

National institutions were called to:

Questions from the Panel

The chairperson thanked her for her presentation.

Mr Ramgobin commented:

Ms Kassan responded:

Ms Majodina asked about the role in the National Forum. What were the problems and what progress has been made?

Ms Kassan responded:

Mr Kassan raised a point of concern:

Mr Ramgobin said that it is a hearing and it is only fair that respondents are questioned. It is how hearings are done and shouldn’t be intimidating.

Mr Seremane acknowledged that it is a valid point that would be noted. He urged people to feel comfortable but agreed that it may be necessary to examine the structure and format of hearings like these.

The chairperson thanked Ms Kassan for her presentation and for reminding participants about the formative literature, which she had referred to at the beginning of her presentation.


Respondent: Coordinating body of refugee communities (CBRC)

Presenter: Jacques kamanga, CBRC

Mr Kamanga, a refugee from the DRC, thanked the organisers for allowing him to make a presentation highlighting the concerns from his constituency.

Mr Kamanga testified:

Abuse of refugees and asylum-seekers rights:

Seizure of Merchandise:

Local, Provincial and National Government:





Shelter, Rentals and Accommodation:

Discrimination in academic records:

Mr Kamanga introduced a colleague from DRC to give his testimony about the bureaucratic difficulties around obtaining refugee status.

Presenter: Augustine Babumba, CBRC

Mr Babumba acknowledged and expressed his appreciated for South Africa services such as education and the school governing body of Wordsworth High School who had granted his son exemption from school fees.

He went on to highlight a grievance:

I came to South Africa in 2000 and applied for refugee status. My family followed a few months later but were given different reference number in their application for status. I was granted refugee status in 2001. I applied for an identity document and a passport – but received only a passport. I was told that I needed to come back for fingerprints. Over the past three years I have been back and forth on a number of occasions to try and secure the identity document. In the meantime my passport expired. Now I have no identity document or passport. My family has not received their documents yet either.

Respondent: South African Police Services (SAPS)

Presenter: Francois van Graan, SAPS

Mr van Graan maintained that the SAPS couldn’t comment on the extent of xenophobia in South Africa, saying that the SAHRC need to establish this. But, he noted that xenophobia does exist and it does affect SAPS because SAPS is constitutionally bound to expose crime and some of these crimes will involve foreigners.

Mr van Graan highlighted some of the ways in which SAPS are attempting to combat xenophobia in the police service:

Presenter: Commissioner Reddy, SAPS, Johannesburg

Commissioner Reddy said that he had noted the concerns around corruption, torture and death in detention, which had emerged during the hearings, saying that these would be investigated. He expressed the hope that they were not merely rhetoric and appealed to the relevant individuals to take these issues up with him so that they can be investigated.

Commenting that Johannesburg is not a refugee camp, Commissioner Reddy expressed surprise at the large number of refugees and asylum-seekers that come to Johannesburg, which does not seem to have anything particularly special to offer them. He also said that he found it surprising that there were so many refugees and asylum-seekers from DRC who would have passed through many cities before arriving in Johannesburg. Why do individuals travel to Johannesburg?

Commissioner Reddy went on the look at a number of the challenges facing SAPS in Johannesburg:

SAPS does not promote xenophobia and it is dealt with seriously when it emerges. Major transformation has taken place within SAPS but there is acknowledgement that there are xenophobic elements within the police. The belief, however, that the police have a programme against illegal immigrants is a misconception.

How do the police come into contact with foreigners, if there is no programme against them?

How do the police engage with these criminals?

Future priorities include:

Presenter: Provincial Commissioner Naidu, SAPS

Commissioner Naidu commented:

Questions from the Panel

Mr Joubert commented:

Mr Ramgobin commented:

Ms Majodina commented:

Ms Majodina asked permission of Ms Donkoh to comment on the ‘Principle of First Asylum’ given her experience working with the UNHCR.

Ms Donkoh commended Ms Majodina for her work in the field of human rights saying that she walks the talk. She went on to provide an overview of the ‘Principle of First Asylum’:

Mr Seremane commented:


Respondent: South African National Defence Force

Presenter: Brigadier Somdaka, SANDF

Brigadier Somdaka thanked the SAHRC and the PPFA for this opportunity but also expressed at the invitation. He said the invitation was puzzling and seemed to focus on the latest media scandals. He shared that this invitation sparked a discussion within the Defence Force around the causes of xenophobia. After discovering that xenophobia was an international phenomenon the question emerged: ‘why is South Africa being targeted?’

Brigadier Somdaka proceeded to read two newspaper clippings:

Brigadier Somdaka declared that he has never heard about such a phase out. He handed over to Lieutenant Colonel S.

Presenter: Lieutenant Colonel Cunter, SANDF

Lieutenant Colonel Cunter presented a PowerPoint presentation but, due to the sensitive nature of the material, he has requested that it be excluded from the report.

Questions from the Panel

Mr Ramgobin commented:

He acknowledged that he was a bit shuffled by the two presentations in contrast to all the others.

The chairperson thanked SAPS and SANDF. She stated that their presentations had been thought provoking and said that the Portfolio Committees need to filter everything that emerged to Parliament. She recognised that there are many organisations involved and there is a sense that activities may be fragmented. As Brigadier Somdaka said, "It doesn’t happen overnight." There is a need to analyse where the problems emerge. Mr Joubert’s point about setting up special courts dedicated to determining a person’s status are the type of suggestion that is very useful.

The chairperson concluded day two by following up on Commissioner Reddy’s questions about why people come to Johannesburg, "Johannesburg is the city of gold – We all believe that the pastures are greener here." She thanked participants and closed the meeting.


Day Three: 4 November 2004

Respondent: Southern African Migration Project (SAMP) and the
Institute for Democracy in South Africa (IDASA)

Presenter: Ms Sally Peberdy, SAMP

Ms Peberdy explained that SAMP is a regional organisation, which works in eight countries in Southern Africa, tackling regional migration issues. Established in 1996. SAMP also provides training and public education. She thanked the SAHRC and PPFA. She added that SAMP partners with Idasa in South Africa and her testimony was a joint submission from SAMP and Idasa.

Saying that SAMP aimed to look at xenophobia from a different perspective, Ms Peberdy contextualised her submission:

Ms Peberdy referred participants to a series of tables, which tabled the research findings in international attitudes towards migration.

Ms Peberdy outlined some of the key perspectives that emerged and attempted to analyse these:


Ms Peberdy concluded with an appeal to PPFA, saying that they, and other government departments, have an opportunity to confront xenophobia as a regional issue. She encouraged them to start thinking about regional initiatives to foster a regional identity.

Questions from the Panel

Mr Joubert commented:

Mr Ramgobin commented:

Ms Peberdy responded:

Ms Majodina commented:

Ms Peberdy responded:

Mr Sithole commented:

Ms Peberdy thanked the organisers and reminded them that she would be delighted to take this up with interested parties at a later stage.


Respondent: Department of Foreign Affairs

Presenter: Ms Josie xxx, Department of Foreign Affairs

Ms Josie highlighted that she would have liked to be able to attend the entire programme because she believes that it can only be addressed through the sharing of views and dialogue. From a foreign affairs standpoint, she noted that South Africa’s foreign policy is informed by its domestic policies and practices. She described xenophobia as a deep-rooted dislike of foreigners and said that it is a problem around the world.

She went on to talk about South Africa’s commitments to combating racism, xenophobia and other forms of discrimination – at the domestic and international level:

Ms Josie suggested that racism and xenophobia are inextricably linked and also pointed to a link between xenophobia and poverty. This centres on a perceived struggle for limited resources. In addition, South Africans do not see people from Africa as en empowering force, but rather as people who have come to steal their jobs.

The perception that South Africa is a wealthier country, has contributed to the manifestation of some xenophobic attitudes among South African nationals. These perceptions need to be put into perspective. However, the economic trends in Africa have escalated the problem of xenophobia. When it comes to developed countries the impact of xenophobia is fairly insignificant because there is much less poverty and inequality. This suggests that South Africa – and Africa as a whole – need to promote economic upliftment by working together and co-operating economically. South Africa is still ‘learning’ democracy and needs to keep up the education and dialoguing.

Questions from the Panel

Mr Seremane commented:

Ms Josie agreed that issues of ethnicity, hate speech and cultural backgrounds need to be confronted.

Mr Sithole commented:

Ms Josie responded:

Ms Majodina commented:

Ms Josie responded:


Respondent: Safer Africa

Presenter: John Rosher, Analyst, Safer Africa

Mr Rosher introduced his submission:

Safer Africa is an NGO focussing on peace and security issues in Africa. Safer Africa works with regional organisations advising them on issues of regional policy.

This submission focuses on how xenophobia relates to the search for peace in Southern Africa.

Racism, ethnicity and nationalism are questions that need to be addressed. Victims of xenophobia can be their own worst enemy. Often foreigner’s misconceptions about South Africans cause them to conduct themselves in a manner, which irritates South Africans.

He went on to discuss some of the ways in which xenophobia relates to the search for peace in Southern Africa:

Mr Rosher then explored the implications of xenophobia on continental stability and why it needs to be addressed:

He went on to discuss the negative implications of xenophobia:

At a social level:

At an economic level:

At a political level:

He concluded:

Xenophobia is not just a South Africa problem South Africa is seen as the land of meat and honey, offering its population a better life. Will South Africa be perceived to be poaching if it relaxes its policies against xenophobia? There is a need for deeper dialogue with NGOs, media, government and other stakeholders. The Khomanani model has been used to exposed white people to black culture through a number of cross-cultural activities. Perhaps this could be done to assist in the integration of immigrants.

Questions from the Panel

Mr Sithole commented:

Mr Ramgobin commented:

Mr Seremane commented:

Mr Rocher responded:

Donovan concluded:

Mr Sithole apologised to the chairperson of Cultural Rights and the presenter for Christians for Peace in Africa who would not be able to make their presentations due to time constraints.

Respondent: Department of Home Affairs

Presenter: Hon. NN Mapisi –Nqakula, Minister of Home Affairs

The Minister expressed her appreciation for the opportunity to make a presentation at the hearings. After reports in the media, she said that she was concerned that the Department of Home Affairs had not been given an opportunity to present its perspective. She expressed the hope that this would be the beginning of a process of collaboration between the Department of Home Affairs, NGOs and the SAHRC.

She said that she would try to respond to some of the issues that had emerged but would also not lose focus on the opportunity for meaningful dialogue. She highlighted that this dialogue began at WCAR, saying that government has prioritised these issues since 1994. She expressed concern that after ten years of democracy there was still a tendency to hate people because they come from a different country.

To many, the opening of South Africa to other nations is viewed as competition for resources and freedom. But many countries are well educated and are in a position to benefit South Africa.

As this round of public hearing comes to a close. We as a Department are grateful for the opportunity you have given us to make a presentation before this panel.

Her statement read as follows:

Our reaction when we first learnt of these public hearings was one of appreciation for the importance of such an exercise in generating public dialogue towards a national consensus on the issue of xenophobia. For our part therefore, we welcome the public hearings and we believe that our work will benefit a great deal from the outcome of this initiative. We are sure that as it usually happens the portfolio Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Human Rights Commission will share these with us.

I was aware that there have been many presentations that have been made here, and some of these have focused on the specific issues through which xenophobia manifests itself, some of them have pointed at the role played by South African government. Where it is possible to report back to the public on some of these specifics we will do so, but in the main, we prefer that we do not loose focus of this opportunity to have a meaningful dialogue on this problem and how each on of us can play a role in addressing it.

The basis of this dialogue was laid when South Africa hosted the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in August of 2001. I think there are many reasons why our country was chosen to host such a conference, and some of these reasons have to do with the whole point of these public hearings in the first place.

The issues of intolerance, racism and the promotion a culture of human rights are of necessity issues that are at the heart of the rebuilding South African society and hence have been at the top of the priorities of our government since 1994.

For its part the Declaration of the 3rd World Conference on racism commits participating nations of the world to put in place programmes to combat this scourge at a formalised government level.

As party this declaration, the South African Government, from the onset recognises that xenophobia is a serious human right issue that it is rife in our county and it needs both to be condemned and combated. We are extremely concerned, that now, ten years into our democracy, there are some within our society who display a dangerous tendency of hatred of other people merely on the basis that they do not know them or that they come from a country different from their own.

In many previous statements made on the matter, I have said that for us the scourge of xenophobia needs to be condemned, because it is based on prejudice, is frequently violent, and most of the time, racist. There is no way that as the South African government and as a nation we can tolerate or justify xenophobia.

Our own experience as a country is that since the advent of our democracy, our country has finally been opened to a possibility of interaction with other nations of the world, and this has been a positive development. But at the same time this development found largely a society that was not ready for or familiar with this level of coexistence, a society which itself was polarised and whose experience had been that of deep-seated animosity and intolerance. To many in our country, the opening of our country to people of other nations was viewed as competition for resources and the newly found fruits of freedom.

Many did not share our enthusiasm that this will enable many nations, particularly in Africa who have gained their freedom long before us to come in and work side by side with us in the building of our country. That while it is true that South Africa’s freedom has placed it as a beacon of hope to the problems of Africa and therefore attracted many people to come to our shores, South Africa itself was going to benefit a great deal from the experiences, the skills, and support of many nations of our continent. Many of these countries have invested heavily in education and as a result are in a position to share some of their skills with us.

But of course now we are faced with the many reports where intolerance has reached disturbing proportions where there are reports of people being harassed, brutally treated and at times killed.

The challenge for us as a country therefore was the need to find a solution that combines a number of initiatives including legislation, education programmes and partnerships in dealing with this scourge.

What then had been the response of the South African Government? In so far as legislation is concerned we have moved to harmonise our immigration legislation and policy to address the rational of attracting foreign skills, direct foreign investment, boost tourism, but most importantly, allow for mutual interaction and coexistence of south Africans and other nations of the world, particularly the continent.

This is an area that needs continuous review on the basis of developments and changes in the political and socio economic factors that at a play in influencing policy. So while we have just enacted changes to our immigration law, this will be followed by another process of review to ensure that we improve what we have.

Some of the capacity problems that limited the Department of Home Affairs in particular, are being addressed to put us in a position to deal with this problem head on. As you might know, for quite some time now, the Department of Home Affairs did not have a fully-fledged or properly capacitated immigration Branch. Last month we appointed a DDG for Immigration who has already started and has been tasked with setting up the branch including establishing the counter xenophobia unit and the development of the counter xenophobia unit and the development of the counter xenophobia strategy. I will be the first one to acknowledge that this should have happened much sooner, but as you are aware we have only now started with the process of turning around the Department of Home Affairs.

Have we done enough in this regard? I think not. But is there reason to question our attitude and commitment as a Government? I would say no.

Globally, many nations of the world are trying to find solutions to the problems of immigration, including a balance between strategies to deal with illegal immigration and the need to protect those that are forced to flee their homes to other countries due to many social ills including wars and the resultant destruction of their of their lives. Globally xenophobia is also a problem as both regions and countries seek to restrict and control migration. Elections have been fought relying on popular feeling against migrants. Countries and regions have increased resources aimed at keeping migrants out. "Fortress Europe" and Australia are just examples. May I pause to say that, contrary to media reports and what seems to be a widely held perception, South Africa has NOT signed an agreement with Australia to return failed asylum-seekers, particularly from elsewhere in Africa. I will be meeting with representatives of the Australian government to discuss this matter.

We believe that we need to do more to protect the refuge e community in our country, including speeding up the status determination process, but also the proper training and coordination of agencies who are involved in enforcing immigration laws.

Our goal will be to instil in our staff members, ass well as our colleagues in SAPS, foreigners are people too and that foreigners have rights and thus need to be protected. We should also reach out to our communities thus helping the society to deal with their fears.

It must however be emphasised that we must discourage people from entering and remaining illegal in our country. These are a number of permits, which can be applied for to enable people to visit South Africa, and in certain circumstances make their home. We are also in discussions with many of the SADC countries to relax entry requirements to facilitate legal and convenient access to our country, particularly from our continent.

I have noted the many news reports that have emanated from presentations at this hearing, and while I do not want us to have slanging match with some of the presenters I would only like to say the following. That with regard to Lindela Transit Centre, I have already instructed that the centre should be open to scrutiny to allow both its demystification and its accountability to a human rights culture. Both the human Rights Commission and the media are aware of this. The Department will investigate the allegations contained in the submissions and report to me.

During my visit last month, I raised the problem regarding the arrest of a South African and their being held at Lindela. I have condemned this as racist and as long as a result I have instructed that fingerprints verification technology be installed at the centre. This has been done and I think it will go away in starting to address this problem. Additional to this I have also emphasised to the leadership of the police that Lindela is not a Detention Centre and not a place for verification of status, but a place from where those who are definitely illegal foreigners should be deported.

We have instructed tat all unaccompanied children be removed from Lindela and the Department of Social Services should take responsibility for them, and the deportation policy should be changed to ensure that women with children are given priorities and do not have to stay at the centre for prolonged periods.

I must re-emphasis re-emphasise that he best way to address this problem is if all of us work together with less finger pointing. We will deal with those problems that are reported to us, but we are inviting you, public representatives, the SAHRC, and the International Community to join us in this fight. I assure you, our commitment in this regard is very real.

Foreigners, whether they are legal or illegal (i.e. documented or undocumented), are often victims of harassment and discrimination, which is a direct violation of their rights. Arbitrary arrest and detention of asylum seekers and refugees is an example of this kind of discrimination based on nationality. This form of discrimination is further entrenched with the profiling of illegal foreigners for reasons, which include: a darker skin colour, knowledge of local languages, manner of dress and hairstyle etc. This profiling has resulted in even South African citizens being unlawfully arrested by the police on suspicion of being illegal immigrants.

Before concluding the Minister commented further on Lindela:

She said that she also read bad reports but that she only gained a proper understanding of the situation when she visited Lindela. She encouraged NGOs and the media to go and visit, saying that there are certain inaccuracies which need to be corrected starting with the issue of death. It is incorrect to suggest that people have died from torture. There have been deaths but this has been due to pre-existing ailments such as malaria. Nevertheless, she stated that she has instructed that a full report be compiled so that if any death has occurred from things such as torture the perpetrators can be brought to book.

During a recent visit to Lindela she found a young Mozambican who was suffering from epilepsy and had had a stroke. Her immediate thought was why would a policeman arrest a sick person and bring them into detention while they’re dying? Why not rather take them to hospital till they are better and then deport them? The man could not communicate. She instructed that he be released to hospital and taken then back to the flat where he was found. That is what happened. She acknowledged that there might be similar cases.

She went on to acknowledge that there had been children in Lindela. She also had instructed that they be removed. Her concern with some vocal activists was that they were not visiting the centre regularly and were not in a position to speak about it with authority. There must be public scrutiny around Lindela – this is the responsibility of all stakeholders. Even if people are in Lindela the premise is that they still have rights. She could not comment on issues of sodomy but from her visit it was evident that adults and children were not held in the same compound. When Lindela was opened to the media they didn’t come because they said that there is nothing to write about. She added that the SAHRC has a responsibility to go regularly - monthly or weekly.

Government has not signed the protocol on the free movement of people within SADC. She said that she hoped to be one of the signatories. This is in addition to bilaterals with some of the countries about waiving visas, which will mean that border control can be relaxed, and improvements made relatively easily. Essentially the people of Southern Africa are one nation. The priority is now to make South African society aware of the ills of xenophobia. It isn’t just the responsibility of government - civil society is also responsibility. Because South Africa was very isolated until 1994 the opening of the floodgates has unleashed people’s fears. Sanctions compounded this isolation. Now individuals are also required to come to terms with a government that is dealing with tourist and bringing in foreign skills. This anxiety must be alleviated and citizens must be educated about becoming part of the global world. The challenge of education and political conscientisation is huge and in a period of ten years it isn’t realistic to expect dramatic changes.

SAMP has really contributed by assisting in the training of immigration officials – you have to change people’s mindsets.

"Now we have to ask what is it that we can do to contribute to the change of peoples’ mindsets?" she concluded.

Questions from the Panel

The chairperson thanked the minister and said that he would permit four questions from the floor.


Mr Dumisane J Sithole, Chairperson, PPFA

Mr Sithole closed the questions and thanked the Minister for participating in this process. He apologised to the organisations that had not been able to present their submissions due to time constraints.

The question that these hearings aimed to address was the extent to which xenophobia impacts on South Africa’s foreign policy. The information that has been provided is much appreciated. The SAHRC and the PPFA will produce a report, which will be presented to Parliament. The aim of a forum like this is to promote debate. There is a tendency to exaggerate, for example, during the hearings one of the respondents reported that he had a number of forged identity documents in his possession. He was invited turn these over as evidence to the Commissioner of Police, but never returned.

Mr Jody Kollapen, Chairperson, SAHRC

Mr Kollapen said that during his opening remarks he had commented that these hearings were historic. He felt that the process had been a success. The debates had been frank, robust and at times bruising – indicative of South Africa’s fast maturing democracy. Deficits are still considerable and there is still a need to be mindful of these issues. The Minister reminded participants that legislation alone is insufficient; it is necessary to get deep into people’s mindsets to change these attitudes.

Mr Kollapen added that the process has also indicated that some of the role-players are not talking to each other. The need to work together has emerged strongly. The SAHRC will take up suggestions to convene this forum on a more regular basis. Hopefully tensions will be reduced over time.

He concluded by thanking Mr Sithole for coming up with the idea for the hearings. He also expressed his thanks to Ms Majodina, the PPFA, the staff of the SAHRC, and to those who had presented written or verbal submissions. Finally he thanked the Minister of Home Affairs, saying that her presence sent a powerful message and demonstrated government’s commitment to improve the situation.

Mr Len Joubert, MP, PPFA

On behalf of the PPFA, Mr Joubert thanked participants and especially the SAHRC, saying that the PPFA would like to contribute financially to the process.

He concluded:

Words are like bubbles in water, deeds are like drops of gold. We have to go out and practice what we preach. It is often said that a society is judge by how it treats it children and we in South Africa are today possibly judged by how we treat our refugees and asylum-seekers.


First Name


Organisation Name

Mr Mbilinyi



Ms Irene



Mr Godwin



Mr Amulam MK



Mr Jonathan


The Star

Mr Babunga



Mr Tendai






Mr Lukizi



Ms Bridget


SA National Anti-Discrimination Forum

Mr Chubaka



Mr Sulega



Mr Dulega



Mr N



Ms Bomma



Mr Ndessomiu



Ms K



Ms Joyce



Mr Edmund


Traders Crisis Committee

Mr Jenni



Mr Aklilu



Mr Andre



Mr Quiza



Ms Nonkumbi B



Mr Jeff



Mr KIbrahim



Ms Kerry



Ms Jennifer



Mr Burton


Department of Home Affairs

Mr Len



Ms Jacque



Mr Michel


St Francis

Mr Jack


St Francis



Gcabashe Forensic

Mr Ernest



Mr ZAK Adam



Mr Jody



Mr Oliver



Mr Loren



Mr Koffi



Mr Papa



Mr Phillip



Ms Joy


St Mary’s Cathedral

Mr Abo Haju



Mr Ronnie






Mr Charles



Mr Eddie



Ms Betty



Mr Raymond


Department of Justice

Ms Shameme



Mr Livingstone



Mr Tom



Mr Poly



Mr George



Mr Jabulani



Ms Sarah



Mr Dennis



Mr Yombo


St Francis

Mr Zakhele


Department Home Affairs

Ms Kerry

Mc Lean


Mr John Simba



Mr Gugulethu



Ms Anisa



Ms Lindiwe



Mr Tony


Committee for Justice and Peace

Mr Simon


St Mary’s Cathedral

Ms Mpho



Mr W


Zimbabwe Residents Association

Mr Godfrey


St Mary’s Cathedral




Mr Nkopane



Ms Hloni



Mr Ochile T



Mr Zahr



Ms Litha



Mr Ben



Mr Christopher


Tanzania High Commission

Mr Perumal



Ms Vivienne


St Francis



Zimbabwe Residents Association

Mr Mahlatsi



Ms K Tryphina



Mr Seldom


Zimbabwe Residents Association

Mr Veli


Sowetan Newspaper

Mr Reuben



Ms Jabulani



Mr Petros



Mr Vusumuzi


Zimbabwe Consulate

Dr Ngenzi


Refugee Ministries Centre

Mr Mike


St Mary’s Cathedral

Mr M



Mr Waldimar



Mr Richard



Ms Zanele



Ms Sheila C



Mr Mewa



Ms Kaajal



Mr Piet



Mr Samuel


Department of Justice




Rev. Thomas

Rene Ktutu

Christians For Peace in Africa

Ms Pumla



Mr Joe



Mr Mpolokeng



Ms Lethiwe


SA Citizen

Mr Prince



Mr Peter


Zimbabwe Residents Association

Mr Mandla



Mr Richard


Department of Home Affairs

Ms Rea


Department of Justice

Mr Gayati



Mr Jan



Mr Enoch



Mr Job



Mr MacDonald


St Mary’s Cathedral

Ms Irene


St Mary’s Cathedral

Brig. Gen. Amos



Ms Simone



Ms Joyce



Mr Edwin



Mr Prince S



Mr Jasper

Van der Blich

Sowetan Newspaper

Mr Jacob

Van Garden


Mr Francois

Van Graan


Ms Saku



Mr T






Ms Elssa



Mr Leon



Ms D


Safer Africa

Ms Venesia



Mr Shani



Mr Caboi



Mr TR Ktutu



Mr M



Mr Satodien


The Star

Mr Kaya





  1. A visible and vocal commitment, demonstrated through concrete action, is required from Government and other political and societal leaders, such as members of the national and provincial legislatures. Citizens of the country must know what the unequivocal position of the Government is regarding xenophobia.
  2. The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) should fulfill its responsibilities with regard to the prevention of xenophobia in the South African community. The Department should be provided with the necessary resources, including staff capacity, and be able to draw on the expertise and support of civil and other institutions.
  3. The role of the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) in monitoring the implementation of the Constitution and practices affecting the human rights of foreign residents in South Africa, including refugees and migrants, is absolutely crucial. The Commission should apply its mandate to "audit" and report on measures taken by local, provincial and national authorities in giving effect to the socio-economic rights of refugees. Resources should be provided to the Commission to enable it to fulfill its tasks.
  4. The SAHRC should increase its visibility in supporting promotional and dissemination campaigns to combat xenophobia. The Commission should seriously consider reviving its engagement with UNCHR and the National Consortium on Refugee Affairs (NCRA) in the Roll Back Xenophobia Campaign.
  5. The SAHRC is encouraged to lend appropriate support towards the initiative of the Department of Home Affairs to establish an institutional structure and programme to deal with Xenophobia.
  6. A concerted effort needs to be undertaken to educate the personnel of all sectors of the civil service, including the police, health and education officials, on refugees and their rights. Such information should be included in syllabi for the induction and continuing training of such civil service personnel.
  7. Human rights organizations and NGOs need to visibly, vocally and continuously maintain their role as advocates of the rights of refugees and migrants and monitors of their welfare. They need to develop more "muscle" and act in partnership with other like-minded organizations in addressing the problem head on. Efforts should be made to enlist trade unions members as well as members of the refugee and migrant communities should be actively sought.
  8. The media must continue to investigate and expose the issues affecting the situation of refugees, both nationally and globally, while challenging the negative stereotyping and portrayal of refugees and migrants as criminals and economic opportunists with relevant factual information about the positive attributes and impact of these communities.
  9. The subject of human rights and its relevance to the treatment of refugees and migrants, as well as to violations and abuse on the African continent as root causes of forced migration should be made mandatory in the syllabus of South African educational institutions at all levels-tertiary, secondary and primary. Emphasis should be given to conveying the values and culture shared in common with other African peoples and nations and promoting knowledge about institutions and processes, such as the African Union and NEPAD, engaged in the promotion of regional integration and development.


  11. Increasing inter - govermental cooperation around policy issues that should be inclusive rather than exclusive of foreigners. For instance, the Department of Home Affairs plans to establish a joint operations committee bringing together representatives from different government departments to assist with policy formulation. This needs to be operationalised.
  12. Constant and consistent monitoring of such policies. In the spirit of the South African Constitution, NGO’S should reinforce rather that attack government.

  14. President Mbeki has embraced African Renaissance – the Immigration Act highlights the need to attract foreign skills necessary to the country. Many African refugees and asylum-seekers already in South Africa possess such skills and high levels of education. Instead of using these resources towards the development of the country, South Africans prefer to import these skills from Europe and the United States (US). This would also help to highlight their ability to contribute positively, addressing many prevalent Xenophobic perceptions.

21. Recognising that refugees and asylum-seekers have the right to work in South Africa. Increasing awareness among employers around these rights and the validity of maroon identity documents.

  1. Reporting abuse and/ or harassment. Introducing mechanisms at government departments where verbal or physical abuse and corrupt practices can be reported. These mechanisms could include anonymous telephone calls to a helpline or farms at police stations and other government departments. Promoting the idea that it is the responsibility of all South Africans to curb Xenophobia by reporting any Xenophobic acts.
  2. Establishing a joint task team consisting of NGO’s, SAPS, various government departments including labour; defence; social welfare; home affairs; foreign affairs; education, Chapter 9 institutions. The purpose of the task team would be to raise awareness around the concept that immigrants are not a burden on the country but rather can make positive contributions.
  3. Introducing an amnesty period to allow undocumented migrants from Africa and Asia, who have been in the country for more than Seven years, to apply for documentation.
  4. Putting pressure on banks to treat African immigrants with greater respect and consideration.
  5. Lobbying countries that sell arms and ammunition to African countries to provide material aid to South Africa and other countries affected by migration.
  6. Challenging big business in South Africa who continue to perpetuate racism, Xenophobia and inequality. Their attitudes have not changed in the post-1994 period but are just cloaked in different ways.
  7. Introducing a system, which provides people with access to detainees at Lindela to help with their difficulties

29. Analysing how the country is facing up to the challenges of WCAR. South Africa has committed itself to the implementation of the national plan of action to eradicate Xenophobia developed at WCAR. The country is obliged to adhere to the policies in that plan.




The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) together with the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Foreign Affairs (Portfolio Committee) agreed to hold open hearings on xenophobia and problems related to it so as to address the root causes of alleged human rights violations of non-nationals. The basis for the SAHRC’s participation at these hearings is its constitutional mandate as set out in Section 184 (1) and (2) of the Constitution. In terms of sub-sections (1) the SAHRC must:

      1. promote respect for human rights and a culture of human rights;
      2. promote the protection , development and attainment of human rights; and
      3. monitor and assess the observance of human rights in the Republic.

Subsection (2) describes the powers of the SAHRC and these are:

      1. to investigate and report on the observance of human rights;
      2. to take steps to secure appropriate redress where human rights have been violated;

Before the hearings the SAHRC had received complaints of alleged human rights violation and /or treatment of non-nations at the hands of both South African citizens and the authorities such as the South African Police Services (SAPS), government officials and Lindela Repatriation Centre. The allegations that had been brought to the attention of the SAHRC related to the following allegations:


Preparatory work:

The open hearings were conducted in different phases and the role of the SAHRC in the process included it undertaking the following:

  1. Commissioning the background document intended to provide members of the panel at the hearing with information pertaining to problems around xenophobia and how it manifest itself;
  2. Drafting and publishing the Terms of Reference to give direction on the scope and objective of the hearings;
  3. Identifying key organisations and inviting them to participate at the hearings;
  4. Receiving submissions from the public relating to alleged xenophobia and problems related to it;
  5. Hosting of the open hearings; and
  6. Drafting the report setting out the conduct of the hearings.

Terms of Reference:

The Terms of Reference for the holding of the hearings were agreed upon by the SAHRC and the Portfolio Committee. The main objectives for the hearings were:

  1. To come to an understanding of the state of xenophobia in South Africa;
  2. To respond to concerns of South Africans ;
  3. To get a better understanding of the underlying causes and manifestations of xenophobia;
  4. To assess the effects of xenophobia on non-nationals;
  5. To consider the impact of xenophobia on South African society as a whole; and
  6. To review measures taken so far to combat xenophobia and assess their effectiveness.

The open hearings:

The hearings were held over a period of three (3) days before a panel consisting of Commissioners from the SAHRC and members of the Portfolio Committee. Representatives from non-governmental-organisations (NGO’s), individuals (both South African and non-nationals) and representatives from government made submissions during the open hearings. The themes of the hearings were the same as those illustrated in the Terms of Reference and referred to above.

The hearings had to deal with complex matters that are associated with violations of internally recognised standards on how immigrants have to be treated by host countries. These standards are prescribed in international Conventions and Protocols that South Africa has either ratified or is signatory to. The issues around xenophobia were also looked at from a premise that some of the conduct complained of is in violation of national legislation, in this case, the Immigration Act and the Refugee Act.

Findings and recommendations:

The SAHRC has yet to finalize its findings based on the submissions presented before the panellists. There are number of reasons for this route, one of them being that the hearings were a joint undertaking with the Portfolio Committee and therefore both parties still need to consult and agree on the most critical issues that emerge. However, the SAHRC has identified recommendations that were made in some of the submissions. Of those identified some are deliverable in the short term whereas others can only be implemented in the longer term. In an attempt to ensure that the SAHRC meets its constitutional mandate it has identified recommendations that it will follow up on and is in the process of devising mechanisms with which to implement them. These include:

1 Specific monitoring of the Lindela Repatriation Centre to assess the observance of human rights in the process of apprehension, arrest and detention of immigrants.

2. Proposing the extension of the work of the Judicial Inspectorate to include oversight over the repatriation centre.

3. Lobbying for the establishment of a Refugee Council, which would be made up of representatives from government, Non-Governmental-Organizations (NGOs) to discuss, formulate and implement strategies to deal with issues affecting refugees.

4. Conducting training programmes in Human Rights for officials of the Department Home Affairs and the South African Police Services.

  1. Ensuring that the Department of Home Affairs and Lindela develop detailed minimum standards with regards to procedures to be followed in the arrest, detention and treatment of detained immigrants.

6. Developing working relationships with National Human Rights Institutions in the SADC region and lobby for harmonization of policies on immigration.