This weekend brought a fresh twist to the ongoing saga that is eThekwini’s refusal to acknowledge their responsibility to people displaced by xenophobia. Our site monitors reported that “On Saturday, 5 July, Mr Manzi Mlungisa from Disaster Management came and told the refugees at the refugee camp that they are on their own as from Monday (7 July). They will come tomorrow and take away the tents and the refugees must leave and fend for themselves. He said that the City is not going to protect anyone anymore. He said that there have been no incidents of xenophobia.”

This despite the fact that our monitors reported last week that people in the temporary shelter at Cato Manor had actually been threatened on site.

So are we imagining that there are still xenophobic threats being made against these people? I doubt it. South Africa’s well-documented history of xenophobia is not going to change overnight just because Thabo Mbeki says everything is fine now. But let’s, for a moment, just assume that the good people of Durban are not planning to threaten, maim or kill these foreign nationals the minute they leave the shelters. Does that make it alright for the City to just dump them on the streets and tell them to get on with their lives? Most of these people have been in shelter for five to six weeks. They lost their homes and jobs (if they had any). They are traumatised and, with good reason or not, remain afraid for their lives. The least the City can do is assist them to reintegrate peacefully into communities, wouldn’t you think?

And if we don’t? Well, what’s 200 more homeless, desperate people on our streets. It’s not like they might turn to crime to feed their children, or be the victims of violence, or incite violence themselves. They’ll just dissappear, right? And then eThekwini can return to being a model municipality that takes care of all its citizens.

The Leaf Blower has a thoughtful blog post about the bureaucratic response in the Western Cape. Seems we are all in the same boat.