BY CATHERINE MUCHIRI Human rights activists in Zimbabwe and South Africa have urged civic groups in the region to unite and push for justice for victims of xenophobic attacks in order to stop the scourge.
There have been reports of xenophobic attacks in South Africa targeting foreign nationals on accusations of stealing jobs, and committing crime.
Anti-immigrant mobs running under Operation Dudula are at the forefront in targeting foreign nationals, even those who are not employed but survive on informal trading in that country.
A member of Operation Dudula was shot dead, and five others left injured last week during their march to Chicken Farm informal settlement in Kliptown, Soweto.
“Accountability for people involved in xenophobia is needed. We need an early warning system and a civil society that has an afro forum prosecution capacity that can work on immediate ways to save lives,” Zimbabwean born South African activist Elinor Sisulu said in a discussion on the ongoing xenophobic attacks organised by Sapes Trust last week.
A Zimbabwean Elvis Nyathi was brutally attacked, and set alight recently, and was buried in Bulawayo recently.
Sapes Trust coordinator Ibbo Mandaza said xenophobic attacks were driven by misinformed mobs who believed that foreign nationals were stealing their jobs.
“Much of the debate about immigrants in South Africa is based on not having much information.
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“There is no evidence that immigrants are a major cause of unemployment in South Africa,” Mandaza said.
“Many of the main misconceptions are anchored on the overestimation of the number of foreign people in the country.”
Government has said it is engaging Pretoria over the violence, mostly targeted at Zimbabweans.
An academic at Wellesley College, Chipo Dendere said: “The South African state is still a young economy that faces challenges like any developing states and has not figured out how to address the issues of people in low developed areas, therefore, an increase of immigrants in the same areas spikes new stresses.”
Speaking on behalf of Kopanang Africa Against Xenophobia Coalition, Dave McKinley said South Africa was still nursing the apartheid pains, with xenophobes taking their frustrations on foreign nationals.