Polizei in Südafrika ist von Rassismus gegen afrikanische Flüchtlinge befallen
(Autor/ Editor: Ghassan Abid)
Südafrika hat ein großes Rassismusproblem im Zusammenhang mit afrikanischen Flüchtlingen. Insbesondere die Behörden des Landes, allen voran die Polizei und die Einwanderungsbehörden, sind von xenophoben Strömungen gegen Afrikaner betroffen. Ermittlungsverfahren im Hinblick auf die Misshandlung von Ausländern durch Polizeibeamte werden all zu oft erst gar nicht betrieben. Zu dieser Erkenntnis kommt auch Braam Hanekom, Gründer und Direktor der NGO PASSOP. Der gebürtige Simbabwer versucht mit seiner in Kapstadt ansässigen Organisation die Grundrechte von afrikanischen Flüchtlingen, Immigranten und Asylanten durchzusetzen. Denn nicht jeder, der Recht hat, kriegt auch sein Recht. Vor allem dann nicht, wenn diese keine Aufenthaltspapiere bekommen. Nur hochqualifizierten Afrikanern steht der legale Aufenthalt am Kap offen. Vor 2009 sind pro Jahr rund eine Viertelmillion Simbabwer abgeschoben worden. Trotz der Einheitsregierung in Simbabwe von 2008, welche aus den Parteien MDC and ZANU-PF zusammengesetzt ist, machen sich – bei einer Arbeitslosenquote von 85 Prozent durchaus verständlich – weiterhin viele Simbabwer auf dem Weg in das südafrikanische Nachbarland. Diese erwartet nicht nur eine fremde Umgebung, sondern auch Fremdenfeindlichkeit durch Staatsdiener sowie Township-Bewohnern und ein unsicherer Rechtsstatus. Flüchtlinge, so Hanekom, werden in der Regenbogennation als Gefahr wahrgenommen. Einige Hilfesuchende stellen einen Asylantrag, die anderen leben illegal im Untergrund. Bei absoluter Armut, hoher Arbeitslosigkeit und unzureichenden Schulplatzkapazitäten mündet der Wettbewerb um die begrenzten Ressourcen in einen Hass gegen Afrikaner ein. Der NGO-Direktor spricht in diesem Kontext von der „Afrophobia„; einer Xenophobie, die sich ausschließlich gegen afrikanische Flüchtlinge richtet. „Die Armen greifen die Armen an„, hält Hanekom mit Bedauern fest. Solange in Südafrika die Ungleichheit bestehen bleibt, wird die Fremdenfeindlichkeit fortbestehen. Hanekom erwartet in naher Zukunft die nächsten Ausschreitungen gegen afrikanische Flüchtlinge. Im Mai 2012 jährt sich zum vierten Mal die Gewaltwelle gegen Flüchtlinge im Johannesburger Stadtteil Alexandra.
2010sdafrika-editorial staff: We would like to welcome on „SÜDAFRIKA – Land der Kontraste“ – the German Gateway to South Africa – Mr. Braam Hanekom, founder and director of the NGO „People Against Suffering, Oppression and Poverty (PASSOP)“. You are originally from Zimbabwe and assisted the most important oppositon party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) by president Morgan Tsvangirai. How would you describe the actually situation in your native country, if you are hearing the government hasn´t money to finance elections?
Answer: Thank you for giving me this opportunity – it’s great to see people in Germany taking such an interest and caring about issues in South Africa and the region. To answer your question, the situation in Zimbabwe remains much unchanged since the formation of the unity government in 2008. There is a still a political deadlock between the MDC and ZANU-PF. While Mugabe has been pushing for early elections this year – probably because he currently has the finances to run a big propaganda campaign through the diamonds that were recently uncovered, as well as the fact that he is not getting any younger – the MDC and regional partners have maintained that the preconditions for fair and sound elections outlined in the Global Political Agreement have not yet been met. It is clear that although there has been a minor economic recovery in Zimbabwe, it has been the rich who have prospered while the vast majority of the population is suffering in poverty and have to cope with a 85% unemployment rate. Therefore, the situation remains precarious and we are trying to push the South African government to take a more active and assertive foreign policy approach towards Zimbabwe to ensure it’s stability.
2010sdafrika-editorial staff: PASSOP is protecting and promoting „the rights of all refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants in South Africa“. There are estimates that 5 million African refugees living in South Africa, mostly from Zimbabwe. Which are the biggest problems for these humans?
Answer: Immigrants that come to South Africa find it extremely difficult to get documentation. Only people who have advanced degrees are able to get work permits. All others, including teachers or nurses, for example, are unable to get work permits. As a result the only chance immigrants have to document themselves is to apply for asylum. The vast majority of applicants are however rejected, and are forced to live in South Africa without documents. This has negative implications for the realisation of their basic rights. They are often exploited, discriminated against and left in vulnerable positions. They are also often faced with a hostile and xenophobic environment in South Africa, and are subjected to verbal threats and physical violence. To put it simply: people come here fleeing hunger and conflict, but once they get here, life does not get much easier for most of them.
2010sdafrika-editorial staff: Several South African communities are strucked by xenophobic violence such as Du Noon in 2008, Imizamo Yethu in 2008, De Doorns 2009, Masiphumelele in 2009, as well as Mbekweni in 2010. What are the factors for these hate outbreaks?
Answer: There are many theories. I guess this ‚hate of foreigners‘ is common in countries around the world, including the States and Europe. Like in other regions, hence, xenophobic tension here is essentially the result from the competition for scarce resources, like jobs or access to schools, and many South Africans feel that foreigners are making lives more difficult for them in these ways. The difference in South Africa compared to other parts of the world is that the tensions here more often turn violent. This excessive violence here is the result of a number of factors, including that the scars from the Apartheid regime have not yet fully healed in South Africa, there are deep inequalities and frustration across the country, and the media is making it worse by being flooded with gruesome images of murders or crime, which perpetuates the ‚culture of violence‘. By the way, it is probably more appropriate to call this ‚afrophobia‘ rather than xenophobia, because you don’t see any Europeans being attacked, just other Africans. It is the poor attacking the poor, fighting over the crumbs left behind by the (mostly white) elite and rich. It’s very sad.
2010sdafrika-editorial staff: Would you agree the opinion that the South African police is afflicted with racism against African refugees?
Answer: Yes, and even if it is not just racism, it is definitely a very clear apathy or indifference towards foreigners, which means that in practice, many cannot access their rights. We constantly hear cases in which police officers refuse to open or investigate cases for foreigners, as stipulated by law. This police apathy is in fact what makes outbreaks of xenophobia possible. If the police doesn’t protect vulnerable foreigners, then who will. It is a major problem, but it is acknowledged by political leaders. I recently laughed when I had a debate with a police chief on the radio about this, and he admitting that it was a massive problem but that there were ‚pockets of excellence‘ in the police force.
2010sdafrika-editorial staff: Do you think xenophobic violence could arising in the near future again?
Answer: Definitely. We are now coming up to the four year anniversary of the major outbreak of May 2008, but the tensions are still boiling right under the surface because the preconditions have remained the same. As long as South Africa is plagued by the current levels of inequality, they will keep resurfacing. I am not saying that the majority of South Africans are xenophobic at all, but there is a certain group of frustrated young South African men across the country that are prone to violence.
2010sdafrika-editorial staff: What should the South African government and first of all the Department of Home Affairs undertake for avoiding xenophobia?
Answer: The government needs to create more jobs and work harder to reduce the inequality. The Department of Home Affairs should give foreigners a chance to document themselves by issuing temporary work permits, rather than forcing them to be undocumented and then deporting them in their thousands. This deportation of foreigners is an important issue. The deportation of Zimbabweans was stopped between 2009 and 2011 – prior to 2009 about 250,000 Zimbabweans were deported every year. Going into communities doing immigration raids and targeting foreigners was one of the key factors that triggered the xenophobic violence, because it legitimized the mistreatment of foreigners in the eyes of many in the townships („if the government can kick out foreigners, so can I“) and it also led to huge instability. Five months ago deportations of Zimbabweans was resumed, and already 20,000 have been deported and immigration raids have started again. This is dangerous for stability and needs to handled very differently.
2010sdafrika-editorial staff: We took notice that with your programme coordinator David von Burgsdorff a German citizen is engaged in your NGO structures. Is PASSOP maintaining relations to Germany and if yes, which ones?
Answer: Yes, David is my right-hand man who has helped me build up this organisation. He embodies the classic stereotype of ‚German efficiency‘ – it’s amazing how he gets things done. In fact, he is the only of our 11 full-time staff members who is not African, although I suspect at heart he is by now more African than German… We don’t receive any funding from Germany, nor have any formal relations with the German Embassy at this point, but what is certain is that through David our staff have become big admirers of your country and it’s people!
2010sdafrika-editorial staff: Braam Hanekom, PASSOP director, thank you very much for this interesting interview!