News Reporter

JOHANNESBURG – South African-headquartered migrants’ rights organisation, the African Diaspora Forum, has scored arguably more tangible feats during the past six months than it did during its first decade.

Presenting a report in review of his leadership’s first six months in office – in Johannesburg at the weekend, the ADF’s new executive chairperson, Dr Vusumuzi Sibanda, highlighted dozens of victories scored by the new administration on behalf of migrants.

The feats were achieved in areas of education, labour, civil suits, quelling xenophobia and ushering in the spirit of social cohesion.

Key among the many milestone achievements was the agreement reached between the ADF and South Africa’s Department of Basic Education, which will see thousands of previously sidelined undocumented migrant children get enrolled with public schools, where quality education is affordable. The agreement is already being implemented and enrolment should be effected in January.

“The department (of Basic Education) has finally acceded to allow learners to be enrolled without documentation despite turning down the request in January 2019 and so far the DBE is preparing a circular to inform schools accordingly and those already affected, we have requested that they be enrolled without waiting for the circular as this is taking time due to need for consultation,” revealed Dr Sibanda, who added that his organisation also recovered R200,000 from self-styled prophet Shephered Bushiri of the Enlightened Christian Gathering church, on behalf of a client.

“We have placed almost 200 learners without documents in Katlehong after meeting seven schools in the area working with Leratong youth advisory centre. We have also engaged schools in Western Cape, Tembisa, Durban and Cosmos City to facilitate the placement of learners without documents at the beginning of the school term.”

The organisation was also involved in the case of Zimbabwean woman Gugulethu Ncube, in her rape case against her former work senior. The ADF appealed to the Zimbabwean embassy on behalf of Ncube, who was apparently dismissed from work unfairly following the alleged sexual harassment case

“We also wrote to UNISA and have them on record on the Ms Gugu Ncube’s case. We are currently going to be representing her on the sexual harassment matter at the CCMA on principle and we understand that the matter will likely end at the Constitutional Court. This case is of interest because of the circumstances that highlight the plight of women who are exploited sexually to get jobs, they have to end up getting into sexual relationships to maintain jobs or keep the jobs,” added Dr Sibanda.

“We understand many people have misgivings about Ms Gugu Ncube but it’s not about the person but about the women and this happens to native South African women what more migrant women who have no one to turn to even when abused by their partners from their countries they end up on the streets and open to any abuse just to make a living. This ties down well with our women emancipation program through the Women’s league. Women are a greater constituency of the vulnerable people – that is women and children.”

Dr Sibanda added that his organisation had settled a case in which a migrant woman was fired from Treatment Action Campaign, a non-governmental organisation that ironically deals with human rights in treatment issues emanating from the HIV/AIDS anti-retroviral (ARVs) to pregnant mothers. The case involved constructive dismissal of the woman, but after the ADF represented the lady at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration, the case was finally settled with a “fair and good payment amount” on April 16.

“We managed to get her a settlement and that she be deemed to have been fired so that she can get her UIF money because she would not be paid UIF if she resigned.”

The organisation also intervened in the case of truck drivers involving between 500 and 700 Zimbabwean and Zambian drivers who were being exploited by trucking and logistics companies that had not paid them properly.

The companies also subjected the drivers to bad working conditions including, paying them as though they are working for a Zimbabwean or Zambian based company, while the bargaining council and a South African transport union had also failed them.

“We have made contact with the company and are due to meet them. We are waiting for documentary evidence of all the particulars of claim from drivers and this is one of the issues causing strikes in KZN. We are at a stage where anytime we will have an ADF truckers’ group that will have specific problems and issues relating to their labour matters because trade unions and bargaining councils appear to be bought by the truck owners association, which always seems to have things their way and hence the truck drivers’ fiasco never ends,” added Dr Sibanda.

“We have also helped a young lady from Mozambique get her results from a school that was holding the results when she had paid through the corruption of the teachers and negotiate that she rewrite her English without being charged after the school had compromised het sitting, so she will write her English in November 2019. We are currently seized with R1,700 000 Road Accident Fund claim, which a Mozambican national claims to have been duped by the lawyers and we have contacted the lawyers and are verifying claims on the matter by both parties.

“It also appears the man’s money was put in a trust account but his rights to access to the money were never considered to decide how much he can get monthly because he is seen as a person at law who cannot take care of his affairs. His rights need to be clarified and access to money considering he wants to go back to Mozambique. Engaging with Standard Bank Trust on the matter. The bank had offered him R3000.00 per month but we managed to get the money to R6000.00 and additional ad-hoc money whenever needed and the trust will also buy him a house again.”

Dr Sibanda highlighted a number of other success stories, including the opening of a new bank account after the old one was deliberately forced closed, apparently in a bid by the old regime to bury suspected financial mismanagement.

“We have also forged partnership with Premier’s office on education, health and crime and we have meetings scheduled with MEC for Education, MEC for health and Provincial Police commissioner on crime immediately before or after elections and due to election schedule we see it as pragmatic after elections,” said the ADF Chairperson.

“We are working on the May week already. We have been integral in the Premier’s Social Cohesion matches and they have begun on the 31st of March 2019 and ended on the 14th of April after a successful gala dinner, which was packed and many of our members attending it including the final matches. The Premier has also promised to meet migrants in a dinner gala to discuss their needs with particular emphasis on education, healthcare to reiterate that Gauteng does not exclude migrants. It was meant to happen before elections but it looks like it will take place after elections should he remain the Premier.

“We also met Mayor of Durban and Premier’s office and they have undertaken to work with us on Social Cohesion initiatives to help calm Durban. We met with migrants from the trucking industries and various communities in Durban and are set up structures to start an office in Durban and we working on it already and are waiting for the new recruits to pay membership fees and to send a team to train and set up structures with mandate fully and immediately.”