From the news desk

Foreign national trade union formed

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In the wake of the recent xenophobic violence in several parts of the country, a number of foreign national groups have banded together for the formation of a new trade union. The South African United Foreigner Trade Union (SAUFTU) hopes to serve as a voice for the safety and welfare of foreigners residing in the country, many of whom have become the target of violence from locals who accuse them of ‘stealing’ job opportunities.

Foreign nationals have faced increased threats since 2008, when the first major wave of xenophobic violence erupted. There has been criticism for the lack of assistance and protection that has been afforded to them, particularly from a civil society and trade union perspective. SAUFTU president, Salman Khan said they would look to fill that void, by becoming the mouthpiece through which foreigners can engage with government. He noted that at present, there were 26 different nationalities represented within the union.

“We are all working from different NGOs like Somalis, Ethiopians, Nigerians and Pakistanis, but it is too difficult for individual organisations to engage any government department in a meaningful dialogue. When you have a collective voice your bargaining power is more powerful,” he explained.

The union are looking to establish base in all nine provinces, and are also eager to increase support from various organisations, particular other trade union groupings.

Another objective of the union, apart from giving voice to the voiceless, will be its advocacy and defence of those foreigners exploited by employers, and assaulted based purely on their nationality. Since 2008 it is believed that well over 75 foreign nationals have been killed in incidents linked to xenophobia. Despite a high number of assailants being apprehended, Khan noted that there was a far from positive rate of prosecution in this regard.

“What we want is a justice; justice must prevail. Because of the high rate of crime in SA, these cases often get ignored. We are saying that if you’re not going to bring a prosecution in front of the people, they are going to think that they can kill foreigners like flies,” he suggested.

Khan was also critical of SA’s foreign policy on conflict-hit countries, which has in part contributed to a high number of foreigners seeking to take refuge in the country.

“The South African government needs to align its foreign policy in such a way that it can help find a peaceful resolution in these (war-torn) countries, so that foreigners here that are hiding here can go back to their country,” he said.

Whilst information on the xenophobic attack has largely subsided, Khan stressed that this was not an indication that the violence was over. He cited incidents over the past weekend, in which one foreigner was burnt alive in Pretoria, and another fatally stabbed over the same weekend. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)

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1 comment

  1. Move to form a foreigners trade union welcome but should align that movement to local unions

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