The Dream is over; 25 May 2008
Experiencing South Africa’s Outburst of Xenophobia overseas
Lutz van Dijk
While on a fundraising tour in Germany and Holland for a township housing project in one of the poorest communities in the Western Cape the recent outburst of Xenophobia in South Africa became breaking news all over: Beyond shock, sadness and anger the overall reaction is here that nothing since the days of Apartheid has damaged the international image of South Africa as much as these daily horrible pictures of hateful masses killing, burning and chasing innocent foreigners.
It is not that people in
It is not enough to send in the police and army while shifting the blame around and arranging a panel. Clear, undoubtful and symbolic actions of a personal commitment beyond words are urgently needed. Everybody knows that refugees from
But read well: The dream ! Don’t call it “promises” and blame Madiba for what is a continuous task to realise for all citizens! A country without a dream is a poor country.
So far it were – like in Apartheid days – mostly organisations and individuals of the civil society who grew up to the challenge by organising shelter, medical aid and spiritual support for the victims. This can’t be valued enough.
During my recent meetings with European donors – private people and businesses, donor organisations and government agencies – I tried my best to explain some of the background of these horrifying pictures of hate against poor foreigners (the rich ones still seem to be safe or are maybe just better protected by expensive security). I insisted that our
Since two days ago I am proven wrong. Also in Masi poor foreigners were chased away, women with children running for their life while on-lookers laughed or threw stones. The colleagues and friends I phoned said that they couldn’t do much against the mob, but meetings in churches and the school will be held soon. By now, a committee has been formed which – together with the police – will demand the stolen goods back and will visit the refugees in their shelters to apologise and assure them of a safe return. Is their still trust possible ? The effort is crucial, as well for the foreigners and their families as for the community itself known as peaceful for a long time.
In less than a week I will be back in the country I started to call “home”. In the 1980s I was refused entry to
As if it is not enough: One day before the hate exploded also in Masiphumelele officials of the provincial housing department informed our residents’ team that the urgently needed MEC’s final approval for our more than R 60 million housing project for about 350 poorest of the poor families can’t be given, because the “department’s agenda is still too full” and a first new chance to put it on the agenda can be earliest on 9 June. It is known to the officials as to the MEC, Minister Dyantyi, since months that an offer of crucially needed R. 11 million private donor money will expire by the end of May, the new delay endangering the whole project to collapse.
Which message shall I give to our new potential supporters for more millions of Rand before returning to
But even if all this is true: I keep telling our potential supporters in Europe and anywhere else: Don’t give up on the dreams of Steve Biko and Chris Hani, of Nelson Mandela and
Amakhaya ngoku Housing Organisation, Masiphumelele