Xenophobic attacks amidst present unrest
Global South Against Xenophobia of the C-19 People’s Coalition stands with the affected communities in the present unrest sweeping the country. We note that the marginalized and vulnerable suffer most when accountable politics is in short supply; thus we raise the alarm about the targeting of spaza shops and street hawkers’ stalls owned by non-locals, indicating a strong xenophobic element in the melee. The violence must be halted via a political response prioritizing the safety, rights and accessing of basic needs for all. We are calling on all just people to hold government to account to act with political effectiveness prioritizing the human rights of all. This must include owning up to the role it has played in creating this present crisis, which will be a critical step in showing political leadership at this moment.
The government persists in supporting corrupt elites here and in other countries by involving itself in corruption and mismanagement and on the continent as well via weak, non-effective responses in the regional SADC and AU instruments. This keeps corrupt politicians in power here and on the continent. People, including activists and those avoiding repression, flee to South Africa to seek refuge only to experience the double backlash against the poor, fueled by our unaccountable state.
The South African government to date constantly fails to implement proper integration to support non-local South Africans—refugees, asylum seekers, immigrant workers and the poor—and to build cohesion within local communities. The crisis of ever deepening inequality in the Republic has fostered competition over scarce resources in communities, fueling xenophobic tensions, often by politicians, as is happening now. The government consistently refuses to label targeting of non-locals as xenophobia or to acknowledge their own attitude as xenophobic. We ask: why are trucks driven by non-locals, non-local shops (and mosques for that matter, noting the equally serious ethnic racist trend in the unrest) targeted being denied full description by government as xenophobic violence? Why deploy the army to protect “foreign nationals” but deny it is xenophobic violence too, as observed in the statement to the media by State Security Minister Ayanda Dlodlo?
The mixed messages indicate government’s lack of political will to advance the rights and lives of some of the most vulnerable who live in the Republic, non-local South Africans targeted for xenophobic violence and locals who get caught up in it as victims. It is clear that non-decisiveness and inability to listen to the grassroots allows instrumentalist factions to place vulnerable communities and minorities at risk of physical violence by those with questionable agendas.
We demand a decisive break with this constant prevarication; government must acknowledge the multiple realties of the violence being experienced on the ground and emphasize human rights protection, safety and well-being of all living in the Republic as it’s strategy. Failure of rights protection, integration and ethical delivery of basic needs in favour of a purely militarized response amounts to refusal to address the core and multiple roots of the unrest gripping South Africa at the moment, and way before, due to poor governance of the ruling party.
GSAX comprises communities of South African non-locals and locals intervening to change state and interstate responses regarding the movement of poor, working class and vulnerable peoples across borders, including in the Global South and here in South Africa. Advancing the voice, rights and safety of these vulnerable groups is critical to an open society, democracy and country moving away from racist-colonialist-apartheid-capitalist-patriarchy. At this present moment of urgent crisis, we observe that the reasons and possible solutions for the present unrest are multiple and are being investigated, understood and addressed on various platforms (for example, see other C19PC coalition statement).
We call here for commitment to both immediate and long term actions to protect non-local and local communities from xenophobic violence, including via the following:
• The state to condemn the targeting of non-local South Africans as xenophobia, which will guide government acting in politically effective ways to prevent loss of lives and deter unethical elements in society thinking they can get away with promoting and engaging in xenophobic attacks
• The state to acknowledge that non-local South Africans contribute positively to the economy by paying taxes; it must emphasize that xenophobic targeting of spaza shops, non-local informal traders and workers impacts an economy already on the brink of collapse since last year via the deadly coronavirus
• The present unrest not being used as a reason to indiscriminately unleash security forces on the people, the trauma of SANDF and SAPS excessive actions from last year still fresh in our memory; we remind, this is not a free for all moment for the president and the security forces to again run amok in the country, and ask those with oversight powers to step in to prevent a recurrence of 2020 brutalities in which the most vulnerable were targeted and victimized; rule of law while important must also not be an opportunity to punish and further oppress the poor and working classes
• The current unrest not being dismissed out of hand as purely criminal and ethnic to defer addressing the extreme frustration and anger of the majority people suffering hunger and other hardships due to corruption and mismanagement by the ruling party since the 1990s; the root causes of the present violence must be taken seriously by the government
• That freedom struggles in South Africa be recognised as a right hard fought for in the anti-apartheid struggle and must be exercised with ethical leadership to prevent innocent lives being lost, wanton destruction to property, and opportunistic violence being touted as either struggle politics or rule of law measures for peace, and
• Community leaders, recognizing the xenophobic (and ethnic racist) trends, to act to report threats to the SAHRC, UNHCR and the police, and to lead their communities to justly protect those being targeted.
Our appeal is to the government to move accountably and swiftly to address the dire situation in ways that respect the human rights of all people; to religious, traditional and political leaders to support in protecting non-local South Africans and other groups being targeted wantonly; to community leaders and activists to intervene to ensure any protests are conducted without violence and with respect to all human beings, including protecting people from contracting the virus or accessing the vaccine; to regional and international refugee and migrant rights entities to intervene to hold the South African state to behave in politically accountable ways; and to the general public to report threats and wanton acts of violence (including of excessive behaviours of security forces) to the oversight bodies whose numbers are attached.
For more information, contact:
Danmore Chuma—062482 1238
Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CoRMSA)//email@example.com //www.cormsa.org.za
Abahlahli Basemjondolo // firstname.lastname@example.org //abahlali.org
Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR)// email@example.com // www.lhr.org.za
Southern African Human Rights Defenders Network (SAHRDN)// firstname.lastname@example.org //www.southernafricadefenders.africa
To report any concerns, threats or violence towards non-Nationals to United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), please contact:
Meshack Hobwane, 081 730 4250 (WC, EC and NC)
Fezeka Bongco, 078 916 1661
(Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North West, KZN, Free State)
To report xenophobic threats and other rights related concerns to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) in your province, contact:
Northern Cape Provincial Manager: Chantelle Williams, 079 439 5557; (054) 332 3993
Eastern Cape Provincial Manager (Acting): Loyiso Mpondo, 0820556430
Western Cape Provincial Manager: Zena Nair, (021) 426 2277
Limpopo Provincial Manager: Victor Mavhidula; 071 566 5188
Free State Provincial Manager, Thabang Kheswa; Intake Officer: Ms Alinah Khompeli, (051) 447 1130; 073 258 8009 (Calls/WhatsApp); Email: FSComplaints@sahrc.org.za
Mpumalanga Provincial Manager, Eric Mokonyama, 078 670 4360
North West Provincial Manager, Osmond Mngomezulu, (014) 592 0694; Betty Mabusela (Intake Officer) 079 127 2528; Zamathuli Luthuli (Senior Legal Advisor) 067 173 8817; Thabang Mabule (Human Rights Officer) 076 084 9284
Gauteng Provincial Manager, Buang Jones, 082 059 6520 (WhatsApp messages);
KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Manager, Lloyd Lotz, 071 446 2333