Reintegration the priority - government

Reintegration of xenophobia victims into the communities they came from was government's priority, Cabinet ministers and provincial politicians said on Wednesday.

They were speaking in Cape Town at a media briefing on the recent wave of violence against foreign nationals.

"We would not encourage anybody to leave South Africa," Minister in the Presidency Essop Pahad said.

He said where displaced people wanted to return to their countries of origin, South African authorities would not do anything to stop them, and would help international organisations involved in this process.

However every effort would be made to reintegrate them into the communities from which they came, and this should be "our principal objective".

This would be pursued humanely, sensitively and with vigour.

Nor was there any question that the foreign nationals would be "ghettoised" in special living areas.

Gauteng local government MEC Dorothy Mahlangu said her provincial executive met on Tuesday and agreed that the tent camps set up for refugees in the Johannesburg area should be gone by the end of July.

For this reason, as the authorities put people into camps, they should simultaneously work on reintegration.

Her department would audit the camps on Monday to find out who was there, and to inform people of the two-month time limit and that they should work with the authorities to make reintegration happen.

There were fears that the camps would lead to a mushrooming of shacks, she said. "The answer is a definite no."

Western Cape premier Ebrahim Rasool said a provincial disaster declaration gazetted on Tuesday would expire after three months.

The provincial government hoped within this time to make a major impact on reintegration, which had already begun in several communities, or on repatriation.

There are over 18 000 refugees at camps and shelters around Cape Town.

Safety and Security Minister Charles Nqakula said the presidentially-authorised deployment of the defence force to help police areas hit by the violence would end on Saturday.

This did not mean that President Thabo Mbeki might not be asked for another deployment, because police were still investigating cases related to the violence and might have to raid certain areas.

The troops have so far been used to help cordon off hostels targeted for police raids.

Rejecting suggestions that intelligence agencies had failed to predict the violence, he said there had been "a few assessments in the past" indicating tensions in some communities related to foreign nationals and service delivery.

However the government could not react by simply throwing security forces into those areas to deal with the tensions, or flooding them with service delivery.

What the government had not known was that the tensions would rise to the level they did, or that the violence would erupt on May 11.

In the same way, though United States intelligence agencies had been aware that there were plans to attack the US, they did not know specifically that the September 11, 2001, onslaught on the World Trade Centre was going to happen.

Nqakula said a total of 59 people, including nine south Africans, had died in the xenophobia, and by Monday, a total of 1 436 people had been arrested. - Sapa

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