25 May 2018

No justice for xenophobic survivors as SAPS fails to comply with PAIA.

May 25 marks Africa day. A day set aside by the African Union to celebrate all that makes us unique and binds us together as Africans. Yet despite the continent wide celebrations, in South Africa May marks the disgraceful anniversary. Shamefully in Africa and across the world, South Africa has garnered a very unfortunate reputation of a nation that is anti-African and intolerant. Even in 2018, foreign nationals who came seeking safety and refuge in South Africa still walk and live in fear. As the government has constantly come out and condemned xenophobic attacks, one would hope that all departments would be as invested in protecting the rights of refugees and migrants, sadly that is not the case.

Out of concern for the safety of foreign nationals in South Africa, SAHA, in conjunction with Darin Christensen, a researcher, submitted a Promotion of Access to Information Act, 2000 (PAIA) request to the South African Police Service (SAPS) for the recorded data on brutal murders of foreign nationals. SAPS denied request on the basis that the records cannot be found in a certain unit, but however recommended that the request be referred to the office of the Divisional Commissioner: Detective Services, another unit within SAPS, who is the custodian of the Crime Administration System. SAHA was astonished to receive such a response from the office of the National Deputy Information Officer that clearly illustrated that the SAPS does not understand how PAIA works. A PAIA request was sent to SAPS, it is their internal issue to locate the correct department within its structures. It is unreasonable to expect a member of the public to know which structures within SAPS to contact, which is why there are information officers who are paid tax payers money to perform that function.

In addition to the challenge of SAPS clearly having no understanding of PAIA, there is reason to worry that SAPS is not accurately keeping record of murders of foreign nationals. This failure speaks to not only the defunct recording keeping practices of SAPS, but it also highlights the fact that SAPS is not concerned about the continued safety of foreign citizens.

In May 2008, media reports indicate that the murder of migrants due to the outbreak of xenophobic violence has gradually increased since 1994. The public must look to SAPS as a chief pollster and also a custodian of all the reported and recorded crimes, to verify the accuracy of this information and inform the public about the steps and measures that were taken to bring justice to aggrieved families and to the people of Africa as a whole. We are disappointed that SAPS have failed to provide SAHA with substantive decision to our PAIA request, nor keep SAHA updated of the progress thereof. This is despite SAHA writing to various responsible SAPS authorities on separate occasions reminding them of their statutory obligations and requesting that they make all necessary effort to forward the PAIA request.

We want to live in a better South Africa, where the public can place their trust law enforcement to not only protect, but gather information to prevent as well. We want to live in a prosperous country, not only capable of protecting its interests, but the interest of everyone within and outside the country's boundaries too. It is time we unite and petition for the formation of a better South Africa for a better Africa. It is important to remember that during our struggle to end apartheid Africa was home to many of our struggle heroes and Africa stood with us to bring us freedom.

We urge South Africans to take a closer look and remember that there is more that unites us than divides us. We must remember, 'umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu'. I-Afrika yethu mayibuye!