"...there is a sense in the APF that the notion of citizenship is tied to struggle ... if you struggle to defend your right to water, for instance, that is circumscribed by the fact that you are South African and that those rights are due to you, you know, why else be petitioning your city to be fighting those services, so you can ... take direct action and break the law, but only ever to reaffirm your rights to the fruits of citizenship..."
In 2008, after the widespread and violent attacks on immigrants, the majority of which took place in the Gauteng Province, the APF together with a range of other social movements, community organisations, NGOs and immigrant associations, formed the Coalition Against Xenophobia (CAX). The founding declaration of CAX expressed the urgent need to harness human commonality out of the mirrored cesspit of national chauvinism, Afro-phobia and a society deeply marked by its past and ongoing repression.
The first activity of CAX was to organise a mass public rally and march in Hillbrow and the inner city of Johannesburg (where large numbers of immigrants reside) in order to send a message of social tolerance, internationalism and social/national inclusivity. The rally-march attracted almost 5000 people from all walks of life and was an important factor in showing solidarity with immigrants, countering any continued xenophobic attacks and sending a strong message to the SA government to be more pro-active in combating xenophobia within its own ranks and policies.
"I think [APF] leadership really addressed that issue quite effectively, they got the message across that there was no space for xenophobic attitudes and personally, really, I would say the reception is still quite okay. No one is forever reminding me that I am Zimbabwean and you know I don’t belong here..."
Over a period of several months, CAX also helped provide legal and material assistance to victims of the attacks, conducted educational workshops in communities and engaged in a ‘Shut Down Lindela’ campaign (Lindela being South Africa’s main ‘detention centre’ for ‘illegal immigrants’ prior to deportation).
CAX’s activities - as the only mass / public response to the xenophobic violence – were crucial in offering a societal counter-weight to the xenophobes and pressuring the government to become more pro-active in combating xenophobic attitudes and incidents as well as positively adjusting immigration rules and procedures especially in the case of Zimbabweans.
"...The only real sort of resistance to xenophobia is organisation and movements themselves. Without that, xenophobia is going to reign supreme in our country and that is going to lead to destruction of any kind of resistance and progressive politics and progressive organisation within South Africa if we are not able to build a necessary mass force that can provide a powerful deterrent to elements who want to exploit the kind of poverty of people for their own sort of interest."