United Nations heads and senior South African Government officials call for urgent action to ensure the safety and security of displaced foreign nationals; pledge to find sustainable humanitarian solutions to the crisis

By | 19 June 2008

Cape Town – Heads of United Nations agencies in South Africa have joined senior national Government Ministers and other high level representatives of provincial and local government in calling for urgent action to ensure the safety, security and well being of displaced persons affected by the recent outbreaks of violence in Gauteng and Western Cape provinces.

Following a rigourous two and a half hour consultation held at Tuinhuis, Cape Town, on Tuesday, the officials pledged to find sustainable humanitarian solutions to resolve the crisis arising from the attacks.

Chaired by the Minister of State in the Presidency, Hon. Essop Pahad, the meeting was convened to take stock of progress made in the aftermath of the acts of violence and to discuss continued cooperation between the United Nations development agencies, Government structures, non-governmental and community-based organisations to effectively respond to the situation.

Officials noted that the number of displaced people had been reduced significantly and that efforts were well underway to find solutions to reintegrating the remaining affected people.

However, whilst acknowledging that rapid progress had been made in containing the spread of violence and attending to the injured and displaced, thousands of people still remained in temporary shelters and special efforts were needed to eliminate that situation. They expressed particular concern about areas like SoetWater and Blue Waters in the Western Cape and Akasia and Wadeville in Gauteng which pose complex but urgent challenges.

In this regard, the officials expressed regret at the intimidating acts committed by small minorities among the displaced populations in the temporary shelters. However, they recognized the tolerance exhibited by the majority in the face of such disquieting acts, to say nothing of the unlawful acts of violence that drove them from their homes.

Role of communities in resettlement efforts cited

The officials cited the key role that communities themselves had played in the resettlement efforts by their willingness to accept displaced persons back into their former communities and by extending a hand of compassion and support.
They further highlighted the importance and value of community policing and community forums to the maintenance of safety and security. Equally important, they said, was the security that will ensue from the rejection of any acts of violence as well as any actions that may foster a sense of impunity on the part of individual community members, displaced people and/or the police.

In looking forward to a lasting and sustainable solution, the meeting affirmed the importance of continued vigilance for the maintenance of peace and security. The officials stressed the need for improved communication between government institutions, especially provincial and city structures, affected and displaced people, and responsible communities affected by violence.

The meeting was attended by the Minister of State in the President’s Office, Minister of Safety and Security, Minister of Education, Minister of Home Affairs, Deputy Minister of Safety and Security, MEC of Local Government in Gauteng, MEC of Community Safety in Western Cape, and Head of the Disaster Management Team of the Western Cape among others.

The United Nations team was led by the acting Resident Coordinator, Mr. Macharia Kamau, who is also head of UNICEF, and included the heads of UNHCR, UNFPA and the IOM.

For further information, please contact:

Yvonne Duncan, UNICEF South Africa, Mobile: 082 561-3970, Email yduncan@unicef.org

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