Violent attacks on foreign traders in Durban. ANA Photographers/African News Agency(ANA)
Violent attacks on foreign traders in Durban. ANA Photographers/African News Agency(ANA)

Call to boost social cohesion in KZN

By Lorna Charles Time of article published Apr 21, 2021

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DURBAN - AFRICA Unite, together with stakeholders such as faith-based leaders, government departments, civil society organisations, community leaders and migrant representatives, held a round-table discussion yesterday on strengthening social cohesion in KwaZulu-Natal.

The event comes after xenophobic attacks on foreign street traders in the past few months.

It has been alleged that the attacks were carried out by members of the Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA), however the provincial body has denied any involvement by its members. While MKMVA representatives were invited to the event, they did not attend.

The discussions focused on finding peaceful solutions to bring an end to xenophobic attacks and re-evaluating intolerance in the province.

Yaa-Ashantewaa Archer-Ngidi, founder and director of the Institute of Afrikology, said: “In strengthening social cohesion, we must reflect, reconnect and redirect. In reconnecting we must ensure communities learn who we are. Social cohesion activists need to be on the ground and show the way of including others.”

She said everyone was intrinsically linked to each other and dependent on the environment of South Africa.

“In bridging the gap we must reject the old adage that one’s gain is the other’s loss, and the winner takes all. We also need collaboration,” she said.

Makusha Hupenyu, of the Archdiocese of Durban’s Refugee Pastoral Care group, said the conversation was comforting and fruitful. “It might have been more successful if the aggrieved parties were here, as I believe in the concept of nothing for us, without us.”

The Reverend Ian Booth, interim co-ordinator of Diakonia Council of Churches, said: “The fact that MKMVA was not there was commented on during the discussions. There were foreigners present. Many expressed the hope that there would be concrete action in local communities where the problems are experienced, and not just another talk shop in a room removed from the reality of the problems.”

Gaby Bikombo, a representative of Refugee Social Services, said discussions had been held with the informal trade management at eThekwini Business Support Unit.

Foreign traders said earlier this month that they had been warned and told not to return to their work after the attacks.

He said they were being “let down” by the law enforcement authorities, and suggested city officials, including metro police, should be part of future discussions.

Father Rampe Hlobo, migrant co-ordinator of the Jesuit Institute of South Africa, said it was important that human rights advocates emphasised the narrative of moral and ethical obligation to each other.

“The notion that I am because you are, we need each other, your well-being is my well-being. We need to bring this narrative into our dialogues and communities. The question of impunity was also raised; there is a lot of impunity with the xenophobic incidents,” Hlobo said.

A long-term recommendation of the discussion was to get the Institute of Afrikology to develop a module on social cohesion that could be presented as a first-year module at universities to address issues of xenophobia.

Dr Raj Govender, social cohesion advocate at the Department of Arts and Culture, supported the recommendation to make social cohesion a compulsory first-year module at universities. “When students study in whatever field, it’s important to understand the social dynamics and cultural norms of the province or community you are living in – similar to how the University of KwaZulu-Natal made isiZulu a compulsory module for first years,” he said.

Approached for comment on MKMVA not attending the event, Themba Mavundla (MKMVA) KZN provincial chairperson said he had not been aware of the roundtable discussion. He said he would have sent a representative as the organisation condemned the senseless attacks in the strongest possible terms.

THE National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said yesterday the 14-yearold Mbilwi Secondary School pupil arrested for allegedly assaulting fellow pupil Lufuno Mavhunga did not apply for bail as expected.

“The matter … could not proceed today (yesterday) in the Thohoyandou Children’s Court. The matter should be heard by a neutral chair (presiding officer) to ensure a neutral power balance between the interest of the State and the interests of the child,” said NPA Limpopo spokesperson Mashudu Malabi-Dzhangi.

She said the current presiding magistrate was privy to the details of the preliminary inquiry conducted with the Grade 10 pupil and a new magistrate had to be appointed to the case.

“The case has been rolled over to April 22 in order to have a new presiding officer.”

She said the pupil would be kept at a correctional youth centre until her next appearance.

The 14-year-old was arrested after she was allegedly seen assaulting a fellow pupil, Lufuno, in an April 12 video which went viral. Other videos of the incident also went viral.

Lufuno later allegedly committed suicide at her parents’ home.

Lufuno was buried in Limpopo on Saturday. At an emotional memorial service on Friday, her brother Kenneth

recounted the six-hour trip he undertook from Pretoria to Limpopo after the teenager allegedly took her own life. “We drove for six hours and I can tell you that in those six hours, we hardly spoke for 30 minutes. We understand she is gone and now she is no more. Lufuno was … loved by everyone in our family,” he said.

One of the viral videos shows Lufuno having a heated conversation with another pupil before they are interrupted by a third pupil who slaps her several times. Lufuno does not fight back but instead tries to reason with her attacker. Other pupils can be heard cheering on the perpetrator.

THE MERCURY

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