‘Immigrants don’t belong here’
By Rhodé Marshall
09 January 2008
Refugee activist Braam Hanekom was arrested on Tuesday night while attending a gathering with hundreds of refugees at the Department of Home Affairs refugee centre on the Foreshore in Cape Town.
The People Against Suffering Suppression Oppression and Poverty (PASSOP) leader says that the crowd of about 500 Zimbabwean immigrants refused to disperse when told to do so by police.
“When I arrived at the scene Zimbabweans were all asking me what they should do and I told them to wait at the refugee centre and wait to be picked up the next morning when they will be transported to Home Affairs. I spoke to a policeman who told me to disperse the crowd immediately and I told him that they were waiting to put their application for an asylum in,” says Hanekom.
Hanekom was arrested on charges of riotous behaviour. He says he refused to pay the R100 fine or sign an admission of guilt because there was no reason for them (the police) to act in such a brutal way.
“They were flashing their guns at people and the vehicle I was in ran over three or four people, they went onto the grass chasing people who were running in all directions, it was absolutely shocking,” says Hanekom.
When Bush Radio News spoke to Hanekom he was at the South African Human Rights Commission lodging a complaint against the police. He said one of the refugees had to go to hospital and one laid a charge against the police which he says they will follow up on.
“It was extremely xenophobic, and the police inspector was calling me stupid and ranting and raving that immigrants don’t belong here, they shouldn’t be in South Africa and I tried to explain to him that the South African government has accepted them to come in to the country,” he says.
Police spokesperson Andre Trout says that the police were simply responding to an illegal gathering.
“We’ve learned of certain allegations made against the police which was forwarded to the station commissioner of the Cape Town police station, Director Lynnette Barnes, for a full investigation,” says Trout.