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​2008-05-15: Johannesburg steps up support to Alex crisis

THE City of Johannesburg has set up a Joint Operations Centre (JOC) in Alexandra to assist people who have been displaced by the current spate of violence directed to residents in the area.

The JOC will co-ordinate the City's activities and services in Alexandra in a joint approach with two other spheres of government - Gauteng Province and national government - together with Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) and relief organizations to provide humanitarian aid.

Main provincial and national departments involved include Home Affairs, Social Development, housing and other national government departments. Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) and Emergency Services (EMS) are also working with the province and the South African Police Services (SAPS) on various public safety and emergency tasks.

The city has erected five tents, placed ten chemical toilets, a water tank and connected electricity to the site. Members of the SAPS are being assisted by a community patrol to ensure the safety of refugees and transport is being provided to the various places of shelter.

Although there have been fluctuating figures of displaced residents, the City of Johannesburg figures indicates that there are currently 618 displaced people, 163 of them women and children sleeping at the Alexandra Police Station and 455 in the allocated tents. A further 65 people took shelter at the Bramley Police Station.

The details of 414 people have been entered into a database consisting of 365 adults and 49 children. The majority of children (38) are younger than eight years old.

The city is again appealing to Johannesburg residents not to participate in violent attacks against suspected any resident. While acknowledging that there may be challenges in housing, unemployment and other issues, the governing structures have already started an intense programme to increase consultation with all members of the community. Meetings are including the ruling party ANC's leadership, national, provincial, local government officials and community leadership.

This intense and ongoing communication has created a platform for residents to work out a way of finding effective solution to the crisis. It also means there can be no justification of resolving challenges by violent means. Communities are urged to support the joint initiatives by government and other role players.

The City of Johannesburg is reiterating its earlier condemnation of criminal activity by certain elements in the community and appealing for calm. Violent attacks, robbery and abuse of women and children can never be justified in a democratic South Africa. This therefore calls for the community to be vigilant and expose those who provoke trouble to the authorities.

In the meantime, the City will continue to provide material support and assistance to those who have been displaced by the violence. Both Alexandra and Diepsloot where clashes flared between the community and police restoring order on Wednesday night, were calming down late in the afternoon. JMPD and SAPS will however remain vigilant and deploy additional staff to patrol the two areas after dark and ensure further stabilization of the situation and maintenance of law and order.