South Africans Ignore Appeal, Continue Attacks On Foreigners



Despite appeals by South African President Jacob Zuma and other political leaders for calm, violence against foreigners continued in parts of South Africa on Thursday.

South Africans living and working in other African countries braced for reprisals on Friday as protests were reported in Mozambique, Malawi and Nigeria.

At least five people have been killed, thousands displaced and extensive property destroyed in the latest wave of xenophobic violence in South Africa, after a March 20 speech in which tribal Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini said foreigners should leave the country.

As the violence spread from the eastern port city of Durban to Pietermaritzburg and the inland financial hub of Johannesburg, Zuma announced the deployment of South African National Defence Force troops.

He said the SANDF would transfer 350 soldiers to work as immigration officers at border posts. “Furthermore, the SANDF has deployed military personnel along the borderline in seven provinces to prevent border crime activities and illegal border crossings.”

Most of the targets in South Africa have been Mozambicans, Malawians, Zimbabweans, Somalis, Congolese and Nigerians. An April 16 march against xenophobia in Durban, attended by up to 20,000 people, did little to stop the simmering tensions. There were scuffles when people opposed to foreigners tried to disrupt the march.

In their speeches in the South African Parliament on April 16, none of the main political leaders mentioned Zwelithini’s inflammatory comments, as they fear his influence over the 11 million Zulus in the country could cost them votes at election time.

However, Corne Mulder, leader of the minuscule Freedom Front Plus party, criticised Zuma, who is himself a Zulu, for not taking Zwelithini to task. In addition the South African National Defence Union on April 16 lodged a complaint with the South African Human Rights Commission over Zwelithini’s remarks.

In his March 20 address in Pongola in rural KwaZulu-Natal, Zwelithini said: “We are requesting those who come from outside to please go back to their countries.”

He said the fact that other African countries that played a role in South Africa’s struggle for liberation “should not be used as an excuse to create a situation where foreigners are allowed to inconvenience locals.”

Zwelithini said that during South Africa’s liberation struggle, South Africans did not set up businesses in these other countries. Yet now nationals from these countries were setting up businesses in South Africa.

This speech touched on a common grievance among poorer South Africans, who claim foreigners are depriving them of jobs and business opportunities. For example, on Friday, The Times newspaper in Johannesburg reported that a man “hunting foreigners” and stoning cars in Actonville, east of Johannesburg, said: “These foreigners don’t pay taxes but they have jobs.”

The official South African unemployment rate hovers around 25 percent, rising to 36 percent when the definition is expanded to include those who have given up looking for work.

However, the unemployment rate in some South African rural areas can reach 80 percent, especially among the youth.

In his parliamentary speech on Thursday, Zuma said the attacks on foreigners were “shocking and unacceptable.”

He said no amount of frustration or anger could ever justify the attacks on foreign nationals and the looting of their shops.

“We condemn the violence in the strongest possible terms. The attacks violate all the values that South Africa embodies, especially the respect for human life, human rights, human dignity and Ubuntu,” he said.

Ubuntu is a South African word for compassion and humanity.

“Our country stands firmly against all intolerances such as racism, xenophobia, homophobia and sexism,” the president said.

Zuma extended condolences to the victims’ families and wished the injured a speedy recovery.

“Any problems or issues of concern to South African citizens must be resolved peace

Source: PunchNg