by SAVIOUS KWINIKA
JOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News) – THE South African government is allegedly complicit in the recurrent waves of xenophobic violence.
This is amid indications the murders of foreign nationals in the country have gone uninvestigated or unprosecuted over the years.
This has prompted calls by the African diaspora community on the South African Development Community (SADC) regional bloc and the African Union (AU) to intervene.
The brutal killing of a Zimbabwean national by a mob, as well as weeks of operations by so-called vigilante groups demanding that undocumented foreign nationals leave the country, have triggered the sentiments.
Advocate Gabriel Shumba, the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum (ZEF) Executive Director, expressed doubt a majority of these rights violations against foreign nationals of African origin would be investigated.
There has been no justice for the dozens killed or thousands displaced each time xenophobic attacks- Afrophobia rather – strike.
“Now is the time for SADC and AU to really take their responsibility to protect their citizens in a constructive way, and for South Africa to implement regional and international obligations towards non-nationals especially Zimbabweans,” Adv Shumba said in an interview with CAJ News Africa.
He bemoaned worsening hate speech against foreign nationals in the country, where certain political parties and movements are among the perpetrators.
The latest anti-migrant rhetoric is led by the so-called Operation Dudula movement.
Home Affairs Minister, Aaron Motsoaledi, opposition leader Herman Mashaba of ActionSA, and Nhlanhla Dlamini, the Operation Dudula leader are the individuals accused of fuelling the fires that result in attacks against foreigners.
Mashaba is a former mayor of Johannesburg.
The now-late Zulu King, Goodwill Zwelithini, was in 2015 accused of aggravating attacks by saying that foreigners should “go back to their countries.”
“There are political parties and movements in South Africa that are boasting that it is a badge of honor to be called xenophobic. Many murders of foreign nationals have gone uninvestigated and unprosecuted,” Adv Shumba said.
Shumba also accused the South African government of systematic discrimination in hospitals, allegedly fuelled by attitudes of officials in both government and in opposition parties.
“It is a tragedy that the world has swallowed the propaganda that acts of hate which are xenophobic are ‘pure criminality’,” Shumba said.
Police have also come under criticism.
The South African Police Service (SAPS) had at the time of writing not made any arrests after a mob burnt to death Zimbabwean, Elvis Nyathi, in Diepsloot, last week.
Instead police have prioritized a crackdown on undocumented foreigners, whom locals in the impoverished Diepsloot accuse of rising crime.
“It is an irony that exposes the double standards on Afrophobia that police do not take action while somebody is burnt to death, thereafter harassing and haunting the other victims in the name of documents,” Adv Shumba said.
There was no immediate comment from South African police commissioner, General Fannie Masemola.
His spokesperson, Athlenda Mathe, could not respond to questions sent to the commissioner.
Dr Vusumuzi Sibanda, the African Diaspora Forum (ADF) chairman, said his organisation was disturbed by the killing of Nyathi.
“We would want to see the law really take its course, and we believe that criminal charges must be opened against Nhlanhla Lux (Dlamini) as a leader of Dudula Operation,” Sibanda said.
He noted the murder of Nyathi coincided with Dlamini’s presence in Diepsloot.
“So, he instigated the people to commit the crime, and as a leader, he foresaw his attendance to this particular gathering and the utterances were inciteful and constituted hate speech,” Sibanda said.
He warned that a majority of African migrants were now feeling unsafe in the country and might be forced to take the law into their own hands to protect themselves,
“However, we do not encourage these confrontations and we do not want a bloodbath,” Sibanda insisted.
“We are encouraging the police to ensure the perpetrators, particularly the leaders of the Dudula Operation are taken in to ensure that they can communicate a positive message to the people that what they are doing is illegal and unlawful.”
Dlamini is out on bail for allegedly leading members of Dudula in a so-called operation against drug peddling.
A house of a South African was allegedly broken into and drugs not found.
“We appeal to members of the diaspora community to exercise restraint and caution in dealing with these criminals calling themselves Dudula movement or operation, which are hell-bent on misbehaving and subverting the law,” Sibanda said.
The worst outbreak of xenophobic violence flared up in May 2008.
Then, 63 individuals were murdered and more than 200 000 others were left homeless in South Africa.
There are suspicions such murders were uninvestigated.
While such attacks have been widespread in recent years, there are some that like the murder of Nyathi has sparked international outrage.
In 2013, 25-year-old Abdi Nasir Mahmoud Good from Somalia, was stoned to death.
The violence was captured on a mobile phone and shared on the internet.
Three Somali shopkeepers had been killed in the same year.
Among those murdered were two brothers who were allegedly hacked to death.
In 2014, a Somali national, in his 50s, was reportedly stoned to death and two others were seriously injured when the angry mob of locals attacked their shop.
Three more Somalis were wounded from gunshots and shops were looted.
After another round of xenophobic violence against Somali entrepreneurs in 2015, Somalia’s government announced that it would evacuate its citizens from South Africa.
The same year, a photographer captured a brutal attack on a Mozambican man, Emmanuel Sithole, who was stabbed to death in the Alexandra township north of Johannesburg.
Four suspects were arrested.
Sithole’s name was not included in the official list of seven victims killed in attacks.
Those on the list were an Ethiopian, Mozambican, Bangladeshi, Zimbabwean and three South Africans, all killed in KwaZulu-Natal province.
A Pew Research poll conducted in 2018 showed that 62 percent of South Africans viewed immigrants as a burden on society by taking jobs and social benefits and that 61 percent of South Africans thought that immigrants were more responsible for crime than other groups.
Between 2010 and 2017 the immigrant community in South Africa doubled to 4 million people.
The proportion of South Africa’s total population that is foreign-born increased from 2,8 percent in 2005 to 7 percent in 2019, according to the United Nations International Organization for Migration.
This made South Africa the largest recipient of immigrants on the African continent in 2019.
– CAJ News