Tuesday, June 10, 2008

South Africa, What's Next?

Throughout May, there were violent attacks on immigrants in South Africa. Helene Vollgraaff, a Heritance participating professional who lives in Cape Town and is the Sectretary/Treasurer of the South Africa ICOM, recently sent us these maps from the May 24 Die Burger and the following summary of dates and places that violence took place:
11 May: Alexandria, Johannesburg
16 – 18 May: Attacks spread to East and West Rand of Johannesburg including Diepsloot, Tokoza, Actonville, Tembisa, Primrose, Cleveland, Jeppe, Berea, Hillbrow, Zandspruit
17 May: Attacks in Mpumalanga in Lebohang and Leandra
20 May: KZN: Umbilo (Durban)
21 May: Sebokeng, Vanderbijl Park in Gauteng; Villiers in the Free State
22 May: Knysna (southern Cape); Spread in KZN to Bottlebrush Squatter Camp, Chatsworth and Cato Manor
23 May: KZN: Quarry Heights & Kenville in Durban
23 May: Cape Town: Khayelitsha, Guguletu, Nyanga, Philippi, Strand, Du Noon, Masipumelele

Helene also asked Heritance to distribute the SA ICOM Declaration regarding the xenophobic, ethnic and crimincal violence in South Africa. This declaration

calls on the heritage and museum sectors, national and international, in terms of their mandate to engage with public issues of social change, to support efforts to address the root causes, avoidance and ending of such violence.
Philippe Denis, a member of the Heritance Council of Advisors who lives in Pietermaritzburg, KZN, confirmed that everyone is South Africa is concerned by the violence and that foreigners are afraid, in particular African and Asian immigrants and their descendents.

On the positive side, the public sector, in particular the universities, NGO's and churches, rose up in protest against the violence and the attacks have ceased. The underlying problems fueling the xenophobia, however, have not been resolved and a new crisis has emerged. Immigrants are afraid to return to the Townships. There are approximately 100,000 displaced people, many of them living in unhygienic and overcrowded tent towns, church halls, etc. Furthermore, the country is entering winter, which can be very cold and wet. Although many groups have reacted to the call for the donation of food, clothes, blankets, and so on, the needs are greater than the means and the xenophobia in the townships persists.

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