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Sunday Times STLive By Sunday Time Editorial , 2012-03-25

Zille zone offers false refuge


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REFUGEE. It's been a while since a word caused so much trouble.

As usual these days, it started with a tweet. Now the sane and lucid among us recognise that Twitter is not the medium in which to engage in complex issues. But it is a medium that tempts one to do so.

This week, Helen Zille gave in to temptation and decided to twitterise her feelings on the scramble for education in Grabouw, where the poorest of the poor were at one another's throats over whose kids belonged in which school. Knives were drawn. Blood was spilt.

Zille decided to blame the Western Cape's problem on the ANC. But she missed her intended target, and the collateral damage was bad. She blamed an influx of "refugees" from the Eastern Cape for her problems.

What @helenzille said was: "While Ecape edu collapsed, WC built 30 schools mainly for ECape edu refugees. 26 MORE new schools coming." Knives were drawn. The ANC - which has much to answer for, as detailed in our reports on health and education elsewhere in this newspaper - has used Zille's ill-considered tweet to gain some political mileage. Zille's detractors are right to insist that, unless the Western Cape really has seceded, someone moving there from another province is not a refugee.

Much as there is steady migration from KwaZulu-Natal to Gauteng, from the northern parts of the Eastern Cape to KwaZulu-Natal, and from Limpopo to wherever, people choosing to move to the Western Cape have one thing in common with all those mentioned above: they are looking for a better life.

The 1951 Refugee Convention, establishing the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, spells out that a refugee is someone who, "owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to, avail himself of the protection of that country". That is not the case in Grabouw.

South Africans are not refugees in their own country, even if they move to a province controlled by the DA.