By Andrew Whitfield, MP, Frontier constituency leader:
The DA strongly condemns the recent xenophobic violence that has erupted in Grahamstown and calls for the urgent formation of a non-partisan ‘Peace Forum’ that seeks to promote the values of reconciliation and social cohesion.
Grahamstown should be a safe city of hope and rising opportunity not a city of hopelessness and fear. This is possible under a united leadership collective from all sectors of the city.
The time is now for community leaders, local councillors, academics, religious leaders, SAPS and the business community to unite in order to extinguish the flames of xenophobic violence.
This ‘Peace Forum’ should be assembled to explore both short-term relief for the victims as well as long-term solutions to prevent such attacks occurring in the future.
This forum’s aim should be to investigate ways to restore and sustain peace in Grahamstown and find sustainable solutions to the threat of xenophobic violence.
Some areas of focus should include:
- Short term relief through a fundraising effort to assist displaced persons;
- Mobilisation of churches and other religious communities to unite against xenophobia;
- A sustained programme of regular community engagement with an emphasis on our common humanity;
- The formation of a local government structure to ensure assimilation of foreign nationals; and
- Public education campaigns and attitudinal training.
Grahamstown is a city facing extreme hardship with a local municipality that has all but collapsed, providing sub-standard services to its residents.
Desperation runs rampant in the poorest communities of Grahamstown East where dignity is denied and hope long forgotten.
It is in the darkest depths of despair and hopelessness that the spark of xenophobia can become a raging fire. Rising unemployment, a stagnant economy with poor growth prospects and the collapse of service delivery in Makana Municipality have created an abundance of despair in our communities.
In Parliament I will be exploring the role of local government in the assimilation of foreign nationals into our communities. Local government has a critical role to play in ensuring that foreign nationals receive fair treatment and that their rights, as contained in the constitution, are upheld.
We need to build a society based on the values of freedom, fairness and opportunity for all. We need to create a united Grahamstown where we all stand together against the criminal elements that seek to derail our society. We need to learn to live and work together in South Africa.