Talks between residents and the Cape Agulhas Municipality have reached a dead-end as local government officials look to rebuild relations in the community after clashes between locals and foreign nationals broke out last week.
Bredasdorp residents have rejected the municipality’s reintegration plans after foreign nationals mostly Zimbabweans living in the small town were forced to flee their homes fearing for their safety.
A number of meetings were held between residents, the municipality and SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), whose officials visited the area after the clashes.
On Sunday evening and Monday morning, the municipality met with SAHRC commissioner Chris Nissen after the municipality reached out to his office. Subsequently, the commissioner himself met with Zwelitsha community leaders and some of the affected immigrants on Monday afternoon.
On Monday evening, the SAHRC facilitated a community meeting with the broader Bredasdorp community. Residents were given the opportunity to raise their concerns and thoughts, allowing the SAHRC to establish the sentiment of the community. Mayor Paul Swart said during the community meeting, he realised they would not have a “quick-fix” solution.
“We cannot safely reintegrate the non-nationals back to Zwelitsha right now. The efforts that were made by all the stakeholders for the engagements with the community have not shown success, however, it is a work in progress,” he added. Zwelitsha has been relatively calm with police maintaining high levels of visibility. “With the current situation at hand, we, as a municipality, are faced with a humanitarian crisis unlike we have ever faced before.
“For approximately 450 families that amount to 1 100 displaced non-nationals between the Bredasdorp Mosque and the Cape Agulhas Municipality, we are faced with the responsibility of providing much-needed aid relief,” Swart said.
Violent clashes erupted last Thursday and continued on Friday after residents targeted spaza shops and property owned by foreign nationals. A group of residents held demonstrations where they handed over a memorandum to the municipality.
They raised several concerns that included the influx of undocumented immigrants, lack of access to land for informal dwellings, renting of informal dwellings to foreigners by locals, and lack of employment opportunities.