South Africa - reclaim our streets

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Activists in Johannesburg are organising their local communities to oppose the recent violent attacks on foreigners there, Silumko Radebe from the Anti Privatisation Forum in Alexandra reports.

Tensions in South Africa have led to xenophobic attacks on our brothers and sisters from other countries, particularly against Zimbabweans and Somalis who live with us in our townships and communities.

We feel that as South Africans it is important to bring together a broad coalition of every civil society organisation, political organisation, faith-based organisation and the labour movement to reclaim our streets. We want to say that we condemn the attacks on the poor, especially the working class from other countries.

We are planning a march on 24 May in Johannesburg to reclaim our streets and ease the tensions against the immigrant communities so that they can be part of society in South Africa. We want them to join us on the march to show the small reactionary forces that they cannot instil fear into our people or push our brothers and sisters into concentration camps. We cannot afford a setback to our 14 years of democracy or to let them roll back the gains we have made to unite everyone.

We are also creating awareness within our communities about the issue of xenophobia and condemning the violence that has been happening. Over 6,000 people have been displaced in the country, particularly in Gauteng. Many are staying in police stations to seek refuge, so the community is coming out to say they should be integrated back into our community and live freely among us.

The issue we are trying to bring out with the march is that we are together and not divided by borders or issues of ethnicity, and to reach out to other South Africans who also condemn the attacks so we can show the world that not all South Africans are xenophobic.

The other events that are taking place in the communities are visits to the police stations to the people sheltering there to say there are South Africans who care and that it's important that all of them feel free to be in our country. On Saturday we plan to march to the Department of Housing, the Department of Home Affairs and the Department of Safety and security to say to these institutions of government that the neoliberal policies of the African National Congress have created the conditions we face in the country.

We will be making it clear that there has to be a policy shift in favour of the poor and to create employment and improve service delivery. People need houses and access to basic services. The attacks, especially by local South Africans, come from panic that brothers and sisters from other countries are here to take their jobs and houses.

After 14 years in power the government needs to roll out policies to meet the social needs of our people so we don't have poor working class people fighting against each other for resources. The majority of the population in the country live under poor conditions: more than 40 percent of people are unemployed and more than 50 percent live below the poverty line of less than £1 per day.

These are the issues facing our current economic policies, and these are the issues that have created these conditions.