Xenophobic attacks: The South African economic climate has been bleak over the last few years. This problem has been escalated with the crisis at Esk
Xenophobic attacks: The South African economic climate has been bleak over the last few years. This problem has been escalated with the crisis at Eskom, and the recent spike in serious crimes. The cherry on top which is going to cause significant further deterioration of the economy.
While to the north, migrants brave hostile seas and people traffickers to make their way to Europe in search of work and a better life, in the south people make their way to South Africa which, with its Western shopping malls, stable democracy and increasingly wealthy middle-class known as Black Diamonds, resembles a promised land.
An estimated 10 per cent of South Africa’s 50 million population is made up by foreigners from other African countries, from some of the continent’s most troubled nations such as Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo as well as its poorest such as Malawi and Mozambique.
Although largely consigned to the bottom rung of society, many have found work in the mines or the building industry, or as domestic workers, gardeners and nannies. Some have set up their own small businesses repairing televisions, washing cars or selling useful goods.
Over the past few days South Africa’s major cities have burst into flames. This is not new. Co-ordinated and sporadic acts of violence linked to service delivery protests, xenophobic sentiments and public outrage are part of the DNA of post-apartheid South African politics.
This is an unfortunate but entirely unsurprising way to mark the repetition of the 25 March 2019 when 20 foreign nationals sought shelter from a mosque in Crescent Street in Overport, Durban, after they were attacked at Jadhu Place informal settlement in Springfield Park.
Even before March attacks, a handful of scholars and activists were urging the government to do more to protect those targeted for violence because of their geographic origins.
Commentators believe xenophobic attacks happens due to the fact that black Africans are in competition with locals over menial jobs, whereas whites and others from wealthier nations are largely perceived as providing jobs. Whites also rarely live in the poorest areas where foreigners have been attacked.
The focus of the xenophobic attacks has been black Africans and in some cases Pakistanis, Indians and Bangladeshis. Apart from an instance in which a white South African woman’s car was stoned as she drove through a violent area of Johannesburg, no whites have been targeted.
Xenophobic attacks have already negatively impacted South African businesses both locally and in parts of Africa, a loss they can ill afford in a gloomy economic climate.
Between Sunday and Wednesday, mobs looted and destroyed shops, many of them foreign-owned, in South Africa’s commercial hub Johannesburg. 11 people have been killed in the xenophobia attacks troubling in South Africa and 2 of the victims have been identified as foreign nationals.
Gauteng police have arrested 74 people as violence flared up again in Katlehong in the Ekurhuleni metropolitan municipality. Police spokeswoman Brigadier Mathapelo Peters said the number of those arrested totaled 497 since xenophobic attacks erupted in the province.
Hundreds of foreign nationals in Katlehong sought refugee at local police station as xenophobic violence gripped province in the past few days.
Business is the largest tax contributor to the South African government and yet at this point in time is highly vulnerable, without sufficient protection of their property or people.
South African companies MTN and Shoprite closed stores in Nigeria on Wednesday after attacks on their facilities in the country.
Nigeria is MTN’s biggest market, with 58 million users and it accounts for a third of the South African group’s core profit.
On Wednesday Nigeria and Mozambique reacted angrily to the xenophobic attacks. South African trucks were blocked in Mozambique, while in Nigeria protestors went riotous at the South African embassy.
In Zambia students took to the streets in response to the attacks on foreigners in South Africa. Shopping centres in the capital Lusaka shut their doors after reports that stores belonging to South African chains Shoprite and Pick’n’Pay had been looted.
Hundreds of protesters made their way to the South African High Commission, where they burned the sign outside. South Africa temporarily closed its embassy in Nigeria following violence against South African businesses in reprisal for attacks on foreign-owned stores in Johannesburg.
The African Union, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa have all condemned the xenophobic violence. President Ramaphosa stated that African states played an important role in the collapsing of apartheid and the advent of democracy in South Africa.
He further said that the xenophobic attacks are acts of criminality and would not be tolerated at all. South Africa must be a country where everyone feels safe.
He said it was time to work together as a nation, to end the violence that has engulfed our streets and damaged our economy and confidence in our country. The criminal justice system is ready to deal with perpetrators of violence, of looting and those who are spreading lawlessness.
The Nigerian foreign ministry said Air Peace, a commercial airline, offered to send an aircraft to evacuate nationals willing to return home.
“The general public is hereby advised to inform their relatives in South Africa to take advantage of this laudable gesture,” Nigerian foreign ministry spokesman Ferdinand Nwonye said on Wednesday.
He further said “Interested Nigerians are therefore advised to liaise with the High Commission of Nigeria in Pretoria and the Consulate General of Nigeria in Johannesburg for further necessary arrangements”.
The Inkatha Freedom Party wants parliament to urgently debate the violent xenophobic attacks against foreign nationals. The party’s Chief Whip Narend Singh said that holding the debate was a matter of national importance.
The party wrote to Speaker Thandi Modise requesting the debate as violent attacks and looting of businesses owned by foreign nationals continue in areas such as Pretoria, and Johannesburg in Gauteng.
The debate is likely to take place on Tuesday next week, National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise has confirmed. Modise told the National Assembly’s programming committee that a number of parties wrote to her asking for an urgent debate.
The Economic Freedom Fighers (EFF) strongly condemned the xenophobic attacks that are spiraling throughout the country. The EFF leader, Julius Malema described the xenophobic attacks as barbaric,and that South Africans ought to be ashamed of themselves for subjecting fellow Africans to the level of violence.
“I am not going to part of stoning my own brother. I am not going to be part of looting. I don’t want to be a president of thugs and criminals, who beat up people,” said Julius Malema. He apologised to fellow Africans, pleading with them to understand that not all South Africans hate them.