Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference (SACBC)’s Bishop Victor Phalana has said the South African government’s intelligence services need to collect timely information that would be helpful for the country’s security agencies in preventing xenophobic attacks.

Paul Samasumo – Vatican City.

South Africa is reeling from recent xenophobic violence in Durban and in Johannesburg.

On 3 April, residents of Alexandra, a township in the city of Johannesburg shut down the area attacked foreign nationals, looting shops and destroying the homes of foreigners.

Intelligence services need to be proactive

South Africa’s Bishop of Klerksdorp, Victor Phalana who is the new Chair of SACBC’s Social Action department, that comprises the Justice & Peace Commission, has told Radio Veritas that both the government and Church could play important roles in the face of these recurring tragic events.

“We need to get the intelligence services of our country to be able to see and detect these things before they happen. I think we have an intelligence service in South Africa that has become so politicised that they are so much concerned about internal political fights. They are not doing what they are supposed to do,” he said.

The Church should rediscover its “Apartheid era advocacy”

Concerning the Church, especially the Catholic Church, the Bishop would like Church groups to identify more closely with the concerns of residents.

“For the Church, we need groups like Justice & Peace (teams in every parish) to be part of their communities, attending community meetings, journeying with residents and knowing what the problems are,” he said.

Bishop Phalana further believes that the Church needs to rediscover its advocacy roots as it once did during the Apartheid era. The Church, he says, should be with the residents and be seen to be persuading the government to act in favour of the people.

The Shepherd of Klerksdorp appealed to South Africans to learn to live with people who are different from them.

Do not use foreigners as scapegoats

“One of the challenges that we are facing (as a nation) is the sense that whenever there is a protest, then it is normally followed by attacks targeting foreign nationals. We are trying to separate the issues. We understand that people might have genuine concerns and complaints, but they must address these with relevant institutions and government departments. They do not need to target foreigners and use them as scapegoats for their problems,” said Bishop Phalana.

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