Corruption and deception in IDP camps

campsiteCAPE TOWN - If there are Zimbabweans who have been displaced during xenophobic violence they may well be aware of how camps are often managed by dictators. (Pictured: Internally displaced persons were forcefully evicted from the Blue River campsite thi

When violence in a country leads to the displacement of large numbers of people, the community displaced is referred to as an IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) community. A camp is set up to accommodate the so-called IDPS, often in an area which the government do not particularly need. In Cape Town in 2008 this included remote areas which were 40 km away from the original homes of the displaced.

These areas also lack public transport, resulting in the displaced community, who have lost their homes, losing their jobs. This is similar to what happened in the Zimbabwean Murambatsvina tragedy of 2005. It is not only jobs that are lost, schooling is interrupted (if not discontinued) and the friends and community links that displaced people had are severed.

State dependency


(Pictured: Children are left with nowhere to go, there parents have no homes or jobs to return to. (Credit Lashara)

The use of large remote camps in South Africa created almost complete dependency on the State. So, when the government wants to shut these camps down, residents are reluctant and fearful to leave. In the past few weeks the courts, after a protracted legal battle, ruled that the City Of Cape Town could evict the displaced residents of Blue Waters campsite.

The remaining 300 residents who were displaced in 2008 still remain in UNHCR tents and have refused lots of offers made by the UNHCR and government (including money) in past year to get them to leave the camp. Importantly, the courts also ruled that the City would have to pay R1000 to each person who was displaced before evicting them. This amount of money, we believe, sets a precedent and should be the minimum offered to the Zimbabweans displaced in De Doorns.

We must remember that the camps set up in South Africa, in the case of xenophobic violence, are full of non-voters, and thus the government is not truly accountable to them. In the case of the camp management we saw in 2008, Provincial Government in the Western Cape took a rather diplomatic approach, as they were held accountable by media and civil society.

No critical voice

Without the critical voice of civil society, and the media monitoring the treatment of the displaced, it could have been much worse. In De Doorns, for example, we saw a lack of critical voice. Instead we saw conformist organisations, such as the UNHCR, who appeared unable to speak out against politicians responsible for the xenophobic violence.

They, along with the Red Cross who were paid R600 000 by the government to feed the displaced Zimbabweans, and who also asked for R3million more from donors, and a string of UNHCR implementing partners, were almost all the civil society groups present.

In govts pocket

Thus, the organisations monitoring the camp were essentially in the pocket of local government. They, together with local government and the local police, largely misled the media.

With the lack of pressure from media the local government, the camp management acted with impunity. It is also shocking that, with at least R600 000, the Red Cross were only able to feed the Zimbabweans two slices of dry bread for breakfast and fish stew with rice for a total of 2 weeks. This, combined with costs like the R130 000 a month paid to the camp security company, WP security, for four security guards at the camp, shows how corrupt local authorities are, or at least of how wasteful they can be when spending money in a disaster situation.

Shockingly, we have found out that the security company in De Doorns pays its workers less than minimum wage. The result of mismanagement is a waste South African tax payers money, and the needs of camp residents are almost completely neglected.

(Pictured: Children are left with nowhere to go, there parents have no homes or jobs to return to. (Credit Lashara)

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