Braam Hanekom

Founder: People against Suffering, Oppression and Poverty

This is how Braam Hanekom views community struggles in relation to refugee rights: "Organisations like the ANC Youth League, Abahlali and the Social Justice Coalition are important to recognise because, whether we like it or not, the safety of foreign nationals is dependent on community leaders.� Born in Harare in 1984, Hanekom came to South Africa with his family when he was 17. His uncle, Derek Hanekom, and aunt, Trish, were both ANC activists. As the founder and chairman of People against Suffering, Oppression and Poverty, an organisation that works for refugee rights, Hanekom has seen a lot of abuse directed at foreigners. At a detention centre in Musina, he saw refugees being given unsliced loaves of bread, forcing them to grab frantically at whatever chunks they could get at through the bars. "They were deporting people twice a day and not even documenting the process properly. They were just taking people's names down.� For Hanekom, documentation (as opposed to deportation) and a more assertive foreign policy are viable solutions to South Africa's immigration problems. He cites the time when the South African government knew about a cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe and simply denied that there was any crisis. "At the time, they deported around 250 000 Zimbabweans a year, one of the highest rates of deportation anywhere. Since then things have changed dramatically but South Africa needs to behave like the superpower that it is in Africa by demanding that human rights are respected in the SADC region and on the continent.� More immediately, though, Hanekom believes that levels of service in refugee reception centres must be improved. He also actively seeks out partnerships with unions because he believes they have a role to play in the effective integration of foreigners into the South African labour mainstream. � Kwanele Sosibo

Website: Twitter: @braam_hanekom