I’m about out of ideas. So are the rest of the people involved in Durban Action Against Xenophobia. Even the indomitable Marijke, who has been working tirelessly for the past couple of weeks, sounds exhausted. Our site monitoring team have run out of energy and time. Other members of the group do their best, but we are all volunteers who have homes and children and jobs and studies. Nobody is getting paid to do this. Many of us are repeatedly asked ‘Why are you doing this for foreigners? Would you do it for South Africans?’. My answer to that is ‘Yes. If anyone vulnerable and without any recourse was dumped in a city park by the council, left without protection, shelter or food, abused by the police and by city security gaurds, yes, I would help them as much as I could.’ Right now, these are the people who need our help. These are the people who left their own countries because of war and rape and pain and terror, who came to South Africa because it is a free and democratic country, and who only want a roof over their heads and a little food on the table. But the government, national and local, says ‘the xenophobia is over’ – as if it were that simple – and tells people to just go back to their communities. Some tried that, and were beaten and threatened and chased away all over again. When they turned to the City for help, they were attacked by security gaurds, manhandled into police vans and dumped in Albert Park – a park with no facilities for them, in the open, in the rain, in a very dangerous area.

I salute my colleagues from Durban Action Against Xenophobia who spent a cold and wet and frightening evening in the park with these people. I salute all those who made calls to everyone they could think of to try and find shelter or protection for those with none. The xenophobia is not over. The province has let the refugees down. The City has let the refugees down. And in doing so, they have let us down. I can not believe in a City Council that would treat the most vulnerable people in this way. I can not support them. From where we stand, the xenophobia is not over at least partly because it is alive and well in eThekwini council.

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