Did BP use bodily waste to prevent immigrant workers from sitting outside its gas station?
The South African refugee advocacy group PASSOP (People against Suffering, Oppression and Poverty) and the Western Cape branch of Young Workers Forum of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU YWF) want to know.
On Wednesday 12 October they discovered that a BP service station was doing just that in the Cape Town suburb of Salt River.
It was smeared on a picket fence and on the street in front of the BP location. The low fence was where immigrant job seekers sit daily, waiting for jobs.
COSATU YWF and PASSOP asked what was going on and was told that the “head of security” instructed that the smearing be done — with the “full knowledge of BP management” — and not for the first time, despite complaints.
Some of those affected have now lodged a complaint with the South African human rights commission.
South Africa hosts millions of refugees from around the continent. 1.5 – 3 million Zimbabweans now live in South Africa.
Most refugees to South Africa arrive by bus after journeys that last weeks from countries such as Congo, Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, Sudan, Somalia and Tanzania. When they get close to the border, those without legal papers walk through the bush and swim across rivers to avoid being sent back.
In May 2008 a series of xenophobic riots left 41 African refugees and 21 South African citizens dead. More attacks followed a year later. There were allegations that the pogroms were promoted by local politicians, though both the ANC and the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) have spoken out against xenophobia.
Zimbabweans fleeing political violence are labeled undocumented “economic migrants” and many human rights monitors are convinced the South African government is committed to expelling as many Zimbabweans as possible, as soon as possible.