Month: Sep 2019

South Africa: The Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (SAHRDN) and the Pan Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (AfricanDefenders) strongly condemn the violence against foreign nationals living in South Africa.

Waves of xenophobic violence erupted in targeted attacks on African foreign nationals and their businesses by South African citizens on 1 September. The violence sparked in Pretoria and spread to Johannesburg and surrounding areas. Police have described the acts of violence as purely criminal and refuse to call it xenophobic attacks.

Videos circulate showing crowds of people looting businesses and small tuck shops mainly owned by migrants and foreign nationals. Some of the foreign-owned business were set alight,[1] causing many to lose their livelihood. 

There has been an outcry requesting South African authorities to make all efforts to stop the violence, and all the main political parties have written statements condemning the attacks. Some African leaders have boycotted[2] the World Economic Forum, e hosted in Cape Town. The Zambian authorities have also cancelled[3] a friendly soccer match that they were supposed to play against the South African soccer national team. Unfortunately, there have been retaliation attacks[4] on South African business in Nigeria, the DRC and Zambia which has resulted in attacks on perceived South African interests. 

Despite the pressure, little has been done on the ground. The death toll in the xenophobic violence has risen to 12, with 639 arrested so far, according to Police Minister Bheki Cele.

South Africa-based civic society organisations (CSOs) and community leaders held an urgent meeting in Johannesburg on 4 September to plan and unite against xenophobia and related violence. As stated by one of the CSO leaders, Mr. Thifulufheli Sinthumule, “we need to shut down the voices that have been fuelling this Xenophobic violence.” “Since 2008, the problem has been known, but we have not rendered any solution,” he added.

We repeatedly hear that many South Africans are angry, and that the country is among the most unequal societies in the world, with high levels of unemployment and poverty. Migrants and foreign nationals are being blamed[5] by government, while the root of the problem lies with  the government’s lack of service delivery and inability to create jobs. South Africa has experienced similar attacks since 2008; yet, South African authorities have p not done enough to bring the perpetrators of the violence to book.  

The SAHRDN and AfricanDefenders call on South African Authorities to take all appropriate measures to eliminate all forms violence against foreign nationals. Perpetrators should be held accountable, and serious efforts should be made to address hate speech and calls to violence. 

Xenophobia (Afrophobia) is against Pan-Africanism and cannot be tolerated. African leaders must champion mutual respect and solidarity. The SAHRDN and AfricanDefenders encourages the people of Africa to open up their arms and accept brothers and sisters regardless of their nationality, rather than be persuaded into the folly of retaliatory attacks against one another,

Civil Society Organisations are marching to unite against xenophobia on Saturday the 14th of September 2019. We encourage everyone to support this initiative. 

For more information please contact the SAHRDN Network Capacity Building Lead Washington Katema on <wkatema@southernafricadefenders.africa> or Charles Chimedza, Protection officer, <protection@southernafricadefenders.africa> or South Africa Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh <Kaajalr@salc.org.za>: Arnold Tsunga arnold.tsunga@icj.org:  Zimbabwe:  Roselyn Hanzi <rose.hanzi@gmail.com> Angola: Lúcia Da Silveira <ltumelo@gmail.com>: DRC pierre tshibangu <malalatshibangu@yahoo.fr>: Lesotho: Lepeli Moeketsi <lepeliomi@gmail.com>: or Uganda Joseph Bikanda Coordinator of AfricanDefenders<panafrica@defenddefenders.org


[1] See https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/09/03/five-dead-mobs-burn-shops-anti-foreigner-riots-johannesburg/

[2]See https://www.chukslyonews.com/2019/09/04/breaking-presidents-of-rwanda-malawi-and-drc-to-boycott-world-economic-forum-in-south-africa/

[3] See https://www.independent.co.ug/zambia-calls-off-soccer-friendly-with-south-africa-after-xenophobic-attacks/

[4] See http://www.sabcnews.com/sabcnews/south-african-businesses-shut-stores-in-nigeria-and-zambia/

[5]See https://www.thesouthafrican.com/news/mayor-mashaba-joburg-city-crime-undocumented-people/