In the past few days at least half a dozen people have been killed in xenophobic attacks against migrants in South Africa’s capital Johannesburg and neighbouring city Pretoria. Close to 200 people have been arrested since Tuesday, as violence ensues against perceived foreign-owned shops and other businesses in the city.
Condemning the attacks, the Chairperson of the Diaspora rights group Africa Diaspora Global Network Dr Sibanda exclusively told 7Dnews, “In order to help the xenophobic environment and situation in South Africa, the African Diaspora Forum (ADF) and other migrant organisations have been trying to engage the South African government to take responsible action to ensure that the law enforcement agencies are deployed in various areas where attacks are perceived to take place.”
“We are seeing a lot of attacks in various towns, but clearly the police seem to be unaware or rather unwilling to deploy,” adds Dr Sibanda.
Previously, the Deputy Minister of Police, Bongani Mkongi once remarked at a press conference that, “It is dangerous for a South African city to be 80% owned by foreign nationals and if we do not debate this problem, the whole country could one day become foreign and the future President could be a foreigner.”
“The South African government is responsible for instigating people through some of its leaders like Deputy Police Minister Bongani Mkongi’s sentiments which are shared amongst many in the cabinet who did not even reprimand him. We have had similar comments during and even after the elections last year,” explained Dr Sibanda.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation calling for restraint and calm to prevail.
“This violence is now mutating and taking different forms that represent themselves in a way that we do not want to see in South Africa. We want this to stop, I want this to stop immediately,” he said.
Dr Sibanda disagreed saying, “The situation continues to repeat itself in South Africa and we would really be lying if we say that the situation is going to be tenable anytime soon. I believe that if more African governments begin to reciprocate the treatment done to migrants in South Africa by either divesting or basically locking out South Africa so that it becomes a closed economy. This is likely to cause them to rethink their strategy,” said Dr Sibanda.
More than a hundred South African companies including blue chip mobile operator MTN and retail chain Shoprite operating in Nigeria, Pick n Pay in Lusaka, Zambia, have either been boycotted or attacked as a retaliatory move. A friendly match between Zambia and South Africa has also been cancelled by the Zambians Zambian’s. Many other African countries in the region and beyond, among them Rwanda, Nigeria, Zambia and Ghana have already boycotted South Africa’s hosting of the current World Economic Forum in Cape town.
“We cannot refuse other Africans because we are also welcomed in their countries and there is just no justification whatsoever for destroying property, harming or killing them,” said Ramaphosa.
South African Journalist Mujahid Safodien comments on the incidents and exclusively told 7Dnews, “It happens every year because our people are frustrated by the economic situation in the country and we take it out on the vulnerable. It is even a bigger issue of violence against women. We come from a very violent society having won our freedom through violence and if we don’t go through a real Truth and Reconciliation Commission, we will never be free from the violence.”
So far, the arrests that have been made pertain to minor charges for looting, but none so far for the deaths, violence or instigation of terrorism on xenophobic victims. The South African media is reporting that some affected foreign nationals have also started to retaliate in order to protect themselves. The situation is currently tense and could possibly deteriorate if not handled well.
The attacks on foreigners continue as well as looting in various parts of South African cities.