No ubuntu for foreigners

At about 3.30pm on June 1, bus loads of displaced foreigners were moved into a makeshift tent camp in Corlett Gardens Extension in Johannesburg.

At about 3.30pm on June 1, bus loads of displaced foreigners were moved into a makeshift tent camp in Corlett Gardens Extension in Johannesburg.

The drama started that morning when residents noticed that overnight, under the cover of darkness, a number of tents had been erected on an open piece of ground owned by the Gauteng education department. According to some residents, the street lights had been turned off on Saturday night and government officials "like thieves in the night", had erected the tents without any consultation with them.

In attendance were ministers Ngconde Balfour and Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, who tried to explain to the residents that a humanitarian crisis had evolved and that it was necessary for the residents to open up their hearts to the displaced people. They could not explain why residents had not been consulted and summoned local councillors and members of the Gauteng legislature to explain themselves.

Eventually, the local councillor addressed the crowd, but it was clear that she too had not been informed of the move. Gauteng's MEC for health, Brian Hlongwa, apologised to the residents for the lack of consultation, but they were having none of it.

Emotions became inflamed and certain residents told the politicians that they had left the township to get away from squatter camps, that they had paid a lot of money for their properties, but that because of the government's incompetence, a squatter camp was now being brought into their area.

Despite a plea from the residents that the move be abandoned until consultation had taken place, the buses arrived, and under guard of a large police contingent, the displaced people were moved onto site. It was indeed sad to see the frightened faces of some of the them as the residents gesticulated wildly that they should go away.

Clearly, ubuntu and loving one's neighbour were not in evidence.

Councillor Alan FuchsJohannesburg

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