SA, Somalia meet on xenophobia


The Somali government has expressed satisfaction with the efforts that the South African government has made to address the recurring attacks on Somali nationals, especially shop owners, in the country.

“A lot has been done to address the problems … We found common [ground], common action and common sentiments on how we can avert such incidents in the future,” Somalia Deputy Foreign Minister Jamal Barrow said following talks with South African Deputy International Relations Minister Ebrahim Ebrahim in Pretoria on Tuesday.

Barrow was in South Africa to assess the situation on the ground and to engage with the South African authorities.

Residents in the Diepsloot and Orange Farm townships near Johannesburg recently rioted against the Somali community, while tensions were also reported in Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape.

This prompted members of the Somali community to march to Parliament in protest, and to ask the authorities to do more to protect their nationals.

The police have made several arrests, while the government has condemned the attacks.

Attacks ‘criminal in nature’
Barrow, who met with Somali nationals in various townships to get a first-hand account of the conditions under which Somalis live in South Africa, said the attacks were criminal in nature.

“The Somalis I met said they feel at home,” he said.

At the same time, Barrow raised other issues such as problems with identification documents. Not having such documents, he said, had led to some shop owners keeping their earnings instead of banking the money, which in turn attracted criminals.

Shop owners were also targeted because they set up shops in poor communities, where they were in competition with local businesses.

Meeting with Home Affairs, Police
Barrow met with Home Affairs Minister Naledi Pandor and Deputy Police Minister Maggie Sotyu on Monday.

The meeting with Home Affairs looked at the legal repatriation of Somalis who wished to relinquish their asylum status as there was now peace and stability in their country.

The South African government, however, said this would be done in line with the provisions of various international treaties and protocols.

Ebrahim said Pandor had indicated that once the South African authorities had received the necessary documents from the Somali government, official recognition would be given to Somali travel documents and passports, should they be verified as legitimate and secure.

The meeting with the police centred on the safety of Somali nationals and efforts by the police to identify the perpetrators of violence against them.

‘We owe a debt to the continent’
Ebrahim said the government continued to be concerned about the tensions.

“We are appalled by the criminal acts of violence, looting and displacement of people who come here with the hope for a better life … We owe a debt to the continent, including our brothers and sisters in Somalia, who supported us in our darkest hour of apartheid.”

Ebrahim added that in terms of the Constitution, South Africa belonged to all who lived in it.

Ebrahim said neither the violent incidents in South Africa against Somalis nor the terrorist attacks in Mogadishu, which saw 15 people – including two South Africans – killed when the UN base was attacked in April, would affect the government’s commitment to strengthening relations between the two countries.

The South African Cabinet extended its condolences after the April terrorist attack. It called on all political groups outside the political process in Somalia to denounce violence and raise their concerns with the government in a constructive and reconciliatory manner.

“South Africa has been consistent in pledging support to the new Federal Government of Somalia,” Ebrahim said, “and we have been working closely with Dr Barrow’s office to ensure that the work South Africa undertakes in respect of Somalia is directly linked to the vision that the Somali people have for themselves, as embodied in President Hasan Sheikh Mohamoud’s Six Pillar Policy.”