S.Africa meets with Somalia on Diepsloot, Orange Farm attacks

Pretoria The Somali government has expressed satisfaction with the efforts that the South African government has undertaken 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 Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Jamal Barrow, said on Tuesday following bilateral consultations with the Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Ebrahim Ebrahim.

Barrow was on a fact finding mission to assess the situation on the ground and to engage with SA authorities.

Recently, residents in Diepsloot and Orange Farm townships near Johannesburg rioted against the Somali community, while tensions were also reported in Port Elizabeth.

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

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

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

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

Barrow used the platform to raise other issues such as identification problems. Not having identification documents, he said, has led to some shop owners keeping their earnings instead of banking the money, which in turn attracts criminals.

The shop owners were also targeted because they set up shops in poor communities where they serve as tight competition to local businesses.

Addressing the challenges

To address this, Barrow on Monday met with Home Affairs Minister Naledi Pandor and Deputy Minister of Police Maggie Sotyu.

The meeting with Home Affairs looked at the legal repatriation of Somalis, who wish 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 indicated that once South African authorities 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.

Ebrahim said 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,” said Ebrahim.

He added that in terms of the Constitution, South Africa belongs to all who live 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 – being killed when the UN base was attacked, will impede government’s commitment and resolve to strengthen the bilateral relations between the two countries.

The South African Cabinet has extended its condolences after the 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 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.” – SAnews.gov.za