SA xenophobia an African shame

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The streets of South Africa’s coastal city of Durban resembled a war zone on Tuesday as law enforcement agents tried to stop running battles between locals and foreigners.

NewsDay Editorial

Durban is the biggest city in KwaZulu Natal province, the latest flashpoint for hate crimes against foreigners living in South Africa.
As many as five people are reported to have died since the violence against fellow Africans flared up in the province allegedly after Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini demanded that foreigners should leave that country.

The scenes of angry mobs and wanton looting of shops is a stark reminder of the 2008 xenophobic attacks that gripped South Africa, leaving 60 people dead.

A sizeable number of the victims at the time were Zimbabweans who sought refuge in that country due to unrelenting economic problems back home.

The situation in the Durban townships and other areas around KwaZulu Natal remains tense and the security of foreigners appears not guaranteed as the mobs continue their rampage.

Foreign nationals especially from Nigeria, Ethiopia, Somalia and Malawi have been forced to seek sanctuary at camps after they were driven out of their homes.

The condemnation of the attacks has reached a crescendo on social networks especially among Zimbabweans.

Information minister Jonathan Moyo and his Environment counterpart Saviour Kasukuwere are some of the notable government officials that have been very vocal on Twitter against the attacks. Moyo has gone as far as blaming King Zwelithini for the anti-foreigner sentiments.

The minister has also told the South African government in no uncertain terms that it has an international obligation to contain the situation and protect the foreigners that are under siege.

A growing lobby has been calling for a boycott of South African artistes billed to perform in Harare and Bulawayo in the coming few days to show Zimbabweans’ disgust at the attacks.

The anger is justifiable as the South African mobs have no right to be hounding fellow Africans from their political and economic refuge. Hate crimes are barbaric more so when Africans are pitted against each other.

However, condemnation alone is not enough and Zimbabwe has to do something urgently about its citizens caught up in the violence.
If Somalia, a so-called failed State, can offer to repatriate its citizens in South Africa, what stops Zimbabwe from doing the same?

Somalia and Malawi have offered to repatriate their citizens who no longer feel safe in South Africa and are ready to return home. Such a proactive approach has been lacking on the Zimbabwean side despite the fact that we have without doubt the highest number of economic refugees numbering over three million people who are targets of these raging gangs.

One wonders why Sadc and African Union chairperson President Robert Mugabe has not publicly condemned the attacks against fellow Africans. Could it be that he is constrained by his own past especially when he encouraged the attacks on white former commercial farmers at the onset of the fast-track land reform programme in the country from the year 2000?

It is time government activated its disaster management mechanism and at least be ready to receive traumatised victims of the senseless attacks at the country’s borders.

Some of the returning residents will also need to be assisted with travel documents because a considerable number of them are in that country illegally.

Once the mayhem subsides, Zimbabwe needs to reflect on why so many of its people are seeking refuge in a country where they are not wanted. Zimbabweans were among the worst affected in the last xenophobic attacks in South Africa.

The attacks have been blamed on frustrations over lack of jobs in a country where unemployment is estimated at 25%. The general feeling among South Africans is that foreigners steal their jobs and take away opportunities.

Zimbabwe has to have its economy working again so that its citizens are not hunted like animals in foreign lands. The xenophobia is not only a shame for South Africa, but for the continent at large.
Clearly, South Africa cannot eradicate this scourge on its own.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Our stupid zimbabwean gov is busy politricking , cant even help its pple like what Somalia and Malawi is doing. why cant we remove the stupid president, pple can we not see that this Mugabe guy is as useless as they come.

  2. It’s not in the best interest of Robert to have people abroad come back. Those are the people who are capable of toppling him from power, he doesn’t envy that. Embarrassment might maybe force him to say something unwillingly to be in line with other countries. There is very few foreigners who settle in Zim because Robert’s rule of law encourages xenophobia and legalises it. For as much as the ministers call for the arrest of the perpetrators, in Zim perpetrators are hailed as heroes, the Zanu youths, war vets, police and army. Africans should value life and have love for each other, Robert was in South Africa a few days ago and publicly said he didn’t want to see a white person, what message does that give a struggling unemployed South African surrounded by foreigners in his backyard? Bad behaviour and policies are acceptable in Africa until they affect the perpetrator. Robert hated Mandela for burying the past and calling for equal rights, whats happening now is exactly what Robert wanted to see, bloodshed. I have relatives in JHB and hope sanity will prevail.

  3. Of course King Zwelithini must be really kicking himself..This is publicity he did not need. I bet he wishes he were somewhere else. That this can not be described as exnophobia makes sense..It is the crimianl element and those lazy business men who can not stand up to competition. If a proper investingation were to be made the culprints would be found on the doorsteps of these local SA incompetent and lazy business people who can not stand up and be counted. If it were really xenophobia why is it only targetting business? That said, the King may need to hire a competent PR company to manage his interface with the public. He has done irreparable damage to the kingship. The AU should also not escape the blame..why do they sit in Addis with criminals who pretend to be heads of state when their people are running in all directions everyday. Look at the waters of the Meditarranean which have changed their color from blue to BLOOD RED because of African children running away from these vampire presidents. Ja, this should be on their dirty doorstep as leaders of the AU..and what a crying shame!

  4. what about when the franks are violent people? you still gonna protect them? of course you are, for money

  5. A damn shame indeed, Black people killing and turning on other Black people. They strike their other Black brethrens who are also trying to survive, rather than turn on the true enemy. The one who has oppressed and mistreated them for years…. Truly a shame…..

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