How Quickly Things Change

We’ve visited so many places on our trip where things have changed, often dramatically, since our initial visit.  Tibet.  The Yangtze River and Three Gorges Dam area.  Myanmar/Burma.   And Alexandra, a suburb of Johannesburg.  In April, we visited Alexandra on a sunny day, and the community was beaming.  Less than two weeks later, it’s been the site of riots over racial tensions.  We’ve been following it from a distance, but I thought I’d include the update we received from Robin Binckes, who took us through Alexandra on our visit there.

 

Greetings from a place which is, I know, special in your hearts!  Thank you to all who have expressed concern for our safety and sadness at what has happened here in the last ten days.

As many of the people who have visited South Africa in the recent past have read the reports of the violence and trouble we are experiencing and have felt concerned for the safety of people that they met whilst here, I felt that it would be a good idea to send out this letter updating you on what is happening and to ask for your assistance in helping the people most vulnerable and most effected by this tragedy ? the children.

Through Friends of Alexandra we believe we can play a role in helping the +- 50 children who are being accommodated in the Police Station in Alexandra to protect them and their families from further violence.
But first let me try to update you in point form of the situation.
1. The violence started last Sunday (11th May) in Alexandra township.
2. It was reported to be violence as a result of Xenophobia & directed at immigrants who were taking the jobs of locals.
3. The violence continued in Alexandra every night last week.
4. Some South Africans in the township were also attacked.
5. Some reports indicate that criminals are now involved and that this has become an excuse for criminals to attack people and rob them.
6. The violence occurs at night. During the day, life has continued as normal.
7. My tours have continued into Alexandra after discussions with the Police Commissioner and last week I took over 60 people into Alexandra on three days and never witnessed an incident, nor felt threatened or in danger.
8. The violence has now spread to other townships and areas of extreme poverty. Once again the violence flares up at night. This weekend it spilled into the downtown area of Johannesburg, as well.
9. To date 42 people have been killed, hundreds wounded and thousands are seeking refuge and safety in Police Stations.

THE SITUATION NOW.
1. Last night was much more peaceful with the majority of townships having an uneventful night.
2. Reports on the radio this evening are that the Army is being called in by the Police to assist in controlling the violence.
3. Day times are peaceful in Alexandra- (I cannot speak of other areas, as I have not visited them)- I continue to take visitors there and Thursday & Friday I will be taking groups into Alexandra.
Today I visited the Police Station in Alexandra to see what the plight of the children was and what their short term needs are. This is what I found.
1. Men are being accommodated in tents outside the Police Station, sleeping on the pavements and tar, but under shelter. Water tankers are providing water. Toilets have been provided.
2. The men have no blankets or bedding of any sort.
3. Women and children are being accommodated in a hall upstairs in the Police Station. They have a roof over their heads and, like the men sleeping outside in marquees, are dependent upon NGO?s for everything else.
4. A total of about 800 people are being accommodated.
5. There are about 50 children ranging from babies in arms to children of about 14 years old.

HOW YOU CAN HELP ?FRIENDS OF ALEXANDRA?.
The children need blankets, sleeping- bags, foam mattresses, food, and other obvious items.
We need to purchase these items quickly, and provide them to the children.
I spent this afternoon on the telephone to some of the larger companies who I thought would donate the urgently needed items quickly ? (it is getting colder here and the weather forecast is for a drop in temperature. As you know we get down to freezing on a cold Winter?s night.)
Responses ranged from
?Sorry, do you know how many calls we have had from people like you??
?We will put your proposal before our CSI committee?
?We have already had meetings with Provincial Government officials and are sure that our contribution will reach the people you are trying to help? (Sometime?!)
?We actually don?t sell or stock lower end merchandise. All our sleeping bags are high end.?

That is why I am appealing to you!
THE EASIEST AND QUICKEST WAY TO HELP WILL BE BY DONATION (TRANSFER) INTO OUR BANK ACCOUNT. THAT WILL HELP US PURCHASE WHAT IS REQUIRED FOR THE CHILDREN. ANY AMOUNT WILL BE GRATEFULLY ACCEPTED.


Details are;
FRIENDS OF ALEXANDRA.
BANK ACCOUNT NO: 420951652
SWIFT CODE; SBZAZAJJ
BRANCH; SANDTON.
SOUTH AFRICA
.
BRANCH CODE; 019205
PLEASE IDENTIFY THE AMOUNT
BY YOUR NAME. IT WOULD BE APPRECIATED IF YOU COULD NOTIFY ME BY MAIL OF THE AMOUNT OF YOUR CONTRIBUTION THAT WE WILL BE RECEIVING.

My personal view is that the violence is a build up of frustration in the poorer communities as a result of unemployment, poverty, unfulfilled promises by Government and corruption. The immigrants are an easy scapegoat.
We will overcome this, as we have surmounted other and greater obstacles.
We are asking for your help for the children of Alexandra.
Warmest Regards.
Robin Binckes.

One Response to “How Quickly Things Change”

  1. Robin Binckes Says:

    Pity Johannesburg never cracked the nod of your best cities list. We will have to lift our game.
    Thanks very much for featuring my letter of appeal for children in Alexandra.
    The situation now is back to normal.
    We are still providing assistance, when required, to the refugees who have been moved to central camps.
    Your assistance is appreciated.

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