Xenophobia akin to apartheid, Ramaphosa says


South African President Cyril Ramaphosa

JOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News) – PRESIDENT Cyril Ramaphosa has equated the ongoing anti-foreigner sentiment in South Africa to apartheid.

Apartheid, which ended in 1994 with the advent of democracy, was a system of legislation that upheld segregationist policies against non-white citizens.

Ramaphosa noted 25 years ago, South Africa’s new democratic constitution came into effect and in adopting it, the country affirmed a commitment to a society based on democratic values, social justice and human rights.

“It is therefore deeply disturbing how the recent incidents of anti-foreigner sentiment in parts of the country echo our apartheid past,” Ramaphosa wrote in his weekly letter.

He noted the country had seen people being stopped on the street by private citizens and being forced to produce identification to verify their immigration status.

Some political leaders have been making statements about immigrants to exploit people’s grievances for political gain, Ramaphosa said.

The president bemoaned marches being led on people’s homes and their dwellings raided for evidence of criminal activity.

“We have seen people being attacked, hurt and even killed because of how they looked or because they have a particular accent.”

He was writing days after Zimbabwean, Elvis Nyathi, was burnt to death after a mob seized him for allegedly not having documentation.

“This was how the apartheid oppressors operated,” the president added.

He said these events in Diepsloot were a tragedy.

“In the course of a single weekend, seven people were killed, sparking protests. This loss of life is deplorable, as is the killing of a fellow African from Zimbabwe allegedly at the hands of vigilantes.”

Ramaphosa said sentiments against foreign nationals were contrary to the democracy founded on the rule of law.

“Acts of lawlessness directed at foreign nationals, whether they are documented or undocumented, cannot be tolerated.”

“Attacking those we suspect of wrongdoing merely because they are a foreign national is not an act of patriotism. It is immoral, racist and criminal.”

Ramaphosa urged all to resolve the country’s challenges without resorting to violence or vigilantism.

He urged locals to resist those seeking to exploit the problems of crime and unemployment for political gain.

“Today, our anger may be directed at nationals from Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Nigeria or Pakistan. Tomorrow, our anger may be directed at each other,” he warned.

– CAJ News



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