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Health and Human Rights Groups Condemn Cape Town Mayor Helen Zille for Promotion of Internment Camps

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(Cape Town, South Africa, 27 May 2008)—the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), AIDS Law Project (ALP) and the AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA) jointly condemn Helen Zille, the Mayor of Cape Town, for her continued insistence on setting up internment camps in remote locations throughout the Cape Town Metro area to deal with the thousands of people displaced by xenophobic violence and harassment over the past two weeks.

Based on sound principles of public health and human rights as well as accepted procedures for the management of displaced persons, we are calling for all individuals to be sheltered as close to where they originally resided, so that they can be near their regular health facilities, schools and places of employment. Furthermore, we believe that seeking local solutions for displaced persons can foster voluntary reintegration into communities, which exile to internment camps far from their original homes will simply make more difficult. Additionally, filling up camps with thousands of people in close proximity is a severe infectious disease risk for diarrhoea, tuberculosis, and other serious infection. Finally, setting up a parallel system of public services in the internment camps, including health and sanitation, is inefficient and will create further stress on normal provision of these services around the city and the province.

We call on Cape Town Mayor Helen Zille and Western Cape Premier Ebrahim Rasool to work together to ensure that displaced persons find shelter as close to their original homes as possible, by opening all public facilities under the jurisdiction of the city and the province to temporarily house these individuals as the first step towards community reintegration. The groups are also calling for additional resources to be made available to promote reintegration of displaced persons and their access to essential services as well as to protect their health, safety and well-being. If these demands are not met TAC, ALP and ARASA will consider legal action to ensure that the internment camps are shut down and their inhabitants reintegrated into their local communities of origin in a timeous manner.

Contact:
Zackie Achmat, TAC: +27-83-467-1152 (evenings)
Gregg Gonsalves, ARASA, +27-78-456-3848 (days)

Comments

Freedom of Movement is a Human Right

Poverty, war and capitalism (all closely related) are the problem not people forced to flee and become refugees!
Megan

Or not.

As a Capetonian resident I think that Helen Zille has responded admirably - immediately setting up six shelters for those displaced in and around Cape Town is exactly the right thing to do. The TAC's response to this is ludicrous. First, what the heck is an "internment camp"? Internment means imprisonment or forced confinement. Are you claiming that there is going to be imprisonment or forced confinement? If not, why are you playing games with rhetoric? Second, you say these are going to be set up "in remote locations throughout the Cape Town Metro area". "Remote locations"? In the Cape Town metro? A remote location is Pofadder. And since these people are in danger of being attacked, and our genius president is still dilly dallying on sending in the troops in the Western Cape, "remote" location sounds good to me - a lot safer than back into the melee. Third, there's a vast number of people displaced - something like 20,000 - and now you're condemning efforts at making accommodation for those people?? Given that there's already a massive housing backlog, the fact that such a serious effort has been made at catering for these refugees by Mayor Zille is admirable, but all the TAC seems to be concerned with is pointing the finger of blame. It's almost as if, now that a politician is actually doing some good in South Africa, the TAC is confused about what it's purpose is. You condemn the fact that so many people will have to live in close proximity, and that the healthcare standards might not be up to scratch, but what else do you expect? Bed and breakfast apartments at the V&A? Fourth, good luck with legal action. However, I'm not entirely sure which provision in the constitution requires that people are timeously sent back to locations in which their lives are in danger. Perhaps it was under the section that I skipped over entitled 'What self-righteous NGO's should whinge about when they have nothing else to do".

What an unbelievably

What an unbelievably ignorant comment.
Civil society NGOs led from the TAC, ALP and Sonke Gender Justice offices have been at the centre of the response to the disaster and has done a lot more and supplied a lot more people with disaster relief than the state. You could have learnt this by reading the newspapers or listening to the radio.

No, just because you happen

No, just because you happen to be helping out in the relief efforts doesn't give you free reign to say whatever you like, especially when statements like this have the potential of being picked up by the international press. At best your statement reeks of hyperbole, but I'd go as far as to characterise it as downright hysterical. The title, which refers to Zille promoting "internment" camps, demands an apology. The fact that more resources are needed is hardly Zille's fault, especially when she's just played her role in declaring parts of the province disaster zones - which will free up more resources in response to the disaster. And the fact that there are various problems with the locations of these camps is merely indicative of the fact that there are rarely perfect solutions to complex sociopolitical problems. But the fact that the TAC has played a (significant) role in the relief efforts hardly gives the organisation's leaders the right to say whatever they want without being critiqued.

I have seen first hand the

I have seen first hand the good work the TAC is doing on the ground. I also have no problem with you guys pointing out problems along the way. Your official statement, though, was WAY out of line.

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Thank you.

Any help is also really appreciated.

Marc
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