Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Another "Long Walk" - Ending Xenophobia

In line with the Trauma Centre's strategy of addressing the root causes of violence, we partnered with representatives of other organisations in learning and implementing a process called "Community Conversations" which it was hoped would address xenophobia in South African communities.The initial training was done by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, and 2 members of staff attended. The process was piloted in Khayelitsha. Gugu Shabalala has continued to co-facilitate these conversations. She reports:

A recent Community Conversation took place on 28 January 2010 in Khayelitsha in one of the community halls and was attended by close to 80 community members and organisations who either work in the community or are involved in work with refugees in Cape Town (CTRS, SCALABRINI, ARESTA, Department of Community Safety, AFRISA, Social Justice Coalition, NAFCOC and many other local structures and community members were in attendance; KDF (Khayelitsha Development Forum) was invited but failed to pitch on the last minute when they realised there was no monetary benefit to taking part in the conversation.

This was the last conversation in Khayelitsha (we had 3 conversations in all). We had begun by identifying challenges that the community is faced with (those that perpetuate xenophobia and violence in the community) and exploring the root causes of these problems. We were now in the last phase which involves action - decision making, and planning what steps will be taken to address some of the issues identified.

The conversation went very well but as anticipated, when it came to taking concrete decisions people seemed to hold back and could find many reasons why a coordination team should not be set up on the day to take the tasks forward and get the community involved. Local political leaders were also holding the people hostage and in a way threatening people who wanted to volunteer to take part in the conversation itself (their view was that a coordination team could not be elected on that day since some community structures such as KDF were not involved in the process and these were the structures largely responsible for implementing such initiatives in the community).

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