Isaiah giving a talk at the “Protecting Individuals and Communities in a Pluralistic Society” workshop, hosted by ALPS Resilience and the US Department of State, on 11 September 2018.
Congolese refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants in South Africa face many barriers to integration, including language and legal documentation. The Congolese Civil Society of South Africa (CCSSA) is an NGO that aims to facilitate the integration of Congolese immigrants into their host communities in South Africa. The Chairperson of the CCSSA, Isaiha Mombilo Mongombe, recently shared more with ALPS Resilience about his organisation’s work.
Isaiha explained that, while he has enjoyed Cape Town’s openness and multi-cultural character since he first moved here in 2004, being a refugee in South Africa is very challenging. Many refugees and asylum-seekers find it difficult to access education and work, which negatively impacts the well-being of their entire families. Additionally, although many refugees and asylum-seekers work low-paying jobs, they are often forced to live in more expensive areas to avoid the threat of xenophobic violence.
In 2008, violent attacks by South Africans against foreign nationals saw an extreme spike. Isaiha explained that this was a real surprise for many Congolese immigrants in South Africa: “Coming from a country where many civilians are killed daily and fear an oppressive regime, South Africa represented, for many of us, an island of peace and democracy; a country of Ubuntu that should welcome those who had stood for its liberation during apartheid.”
The violence of 2008 prompted the birth of the CCSSA. It began with a desire among Isaiha and his colleagues to “become the interface between our people, host communities and South African institutions.” Now, the CCSSA recommends that the rest of civil society adopt its strategies for combatting xenophobia, which include:
Addressing xenophobic rhetoric with accurate information about migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers;
Encouraging youth to share their ideas and experiences of migration and life in South Africa;
Sharing the national histories of immigrants, refugees and asylum-seekers to help South Africans understand why they have left their countries of origin;
Promoting the principle of Ubuntu;
Highlighting the common origins of all Africans; and
Advocating for provincial and national government representatives take concrete action against xenophobia.
The CCSSA currently provides migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers with orientation, counselling and other assistance; collects data about the community in order to raise awareness; and assists entrepreneurs in the community. It also provides a platform for youth in the newly-formed African Youth Congress (AYC). The AYC hosted its first event, an African history exchange titled “From Slavery to Freedom”, on 22 October of 2018.
You can find out more about the CCSSA by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.