On the frontlines of those responding to the xenophobic violence: three students on the DUT/ICON Innovative Leadership Programme. Gabriel Kanyangoga, Mlungisi Mtolo and Siyanda Mthembu had formed a project group focused on issues of migrants, just before the statement by King Zwelithini and the violence that then erupted.
While discussing the project with Crispin Hemson, Director of ICON, on 30th March, Gabriel received a call from a shopkeeper to say that he was being attacked. He immediately notified The Mercury, who had no knowledge of the attack, and the group then went to Isipingo to meet people affected.
The next step was to formulate a survey to collect information on the nature and timing of the attacks, and on the response by police, officials and NGOs. Undertaking the collection of data was made difficult by the conditions.
On the 15th May the group will report back to the next session of the Leadership Programme on their experiences, on the findings of the survey, and on what the three – a Rwandan and two South Africans – have learnt in the process. For example, as Siyanda struggled to communicate with the refugees, and then found that with some isiZulu was easiest, he realised how close he was to them – they were Mozambican, and he then remembered that his own grandfather was from Mozambique. He began to see himself as someone who could easily himself have been a victim of the violence.
Such situations push students into taking leadership, demand new skills and bring important learning. ‘If we are to deal effectively with such breakdowns of the social order, we need leaders who can realise their own capacity for effective leadership,’ says Crispin Hemson.
What is being learnt from this project will be presented by the students at the international Journeys to Peace conference at DUT in September 2015.