News / Xenophobia

NO to XeNOphobia – holding our leaders accountable

On 14 July 2017, the Deputy Minister of Police, Bongani Mkongi, made xenophobic statements while visiting Hillbrow Police Station in Johannesburg. Among other things, he accused foreign nationals of economic sabotage and made the following statements

“We fought for this country, not only for us but for generations of South Africans to live in harmony in a non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous South Africa.” […]

“How can a city in South Africa be 80% foreign nationals? That is dangerous. South Africans have surrendered their own city to the foreigners. The nation should discuss that question.”

“We are surrendering our land […] We fought for this land […] We cannot surrender it to foreign nationals.”

On 21 August 2017, Sonke Gender Justice (Sonke) and Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) submitted a complaint to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) regarding these statements, arguing that they violate the following sections of the Bill of Rights:

  • Section 9, the right to Equality
  • Section 10, the right to Dignity
  • Section 12, the right to Freedom and Security of Person
  • Section 21, the right to Freedom of Movement and Residence

The SAHRC has found that there is a prima facie violation of the rights of the Complainant to human dignity (section 10 of the Constitution) and equality (section 9 of the Constitution).

The Ministry of Police has until 6 Dec 2017 to respond to the allegations to the Human Rights Commission.

Timeline of Events:

  • 14 July 2017: Date of xenophobic statements
  • 15 July 2017: Media reports Mkongi doesn’t think his comments are xenophobic
  • 17 July 2017: SAHRC condemns utterances and Minister Mbalula writes a strong article entitled “Immigrants are welcome here”
  • 18 July 2017: The Media reports Minister Mbalula regrets deputy’s remarks and directed the Deputy-Minister to issue a statement:

“The deputy minister and I have agreed that he will issue a statement, explaining that his comments, whilst they were meant for a good purpose, could actually be misused to attack our African brothers. That statement borders on xenophobia.”

  • 23 July 2017: Media reports that Mkongi does not regret comments
  • 28 July 2017: The Hate Crime Working Group writes to Minister Mbalula calling for disciplinary action to be taken against the Deputy-Minister
  • 15 August: The HCWG writes an open letter to the Deputy Minister Mkongi urging him to release an official statement retracting his words and to recommit SAPS and other government departments to respect the human rights of all in South Africa.
    • The HCWG receives no response
  • 21 August 2017: Sonke Gender Justice (Sonke) and Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) submit a complaint to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC)
  • 24 August 2017: SAHRC writes letter to Mkongi, cc’ing Mbalula, that following a careful assessment of the complaint by Sonke and LHR, they have found that it falls within its jurisdiction, as there is a prima facieviolation of the rights of the Complainant to human dignity (section 10 of the Constitution) and equality (section 9 of the Constitution). They invite Mkongi to respond to the allegations and complaints. He has 21 days to respond to the Commission.
  • 2 October 2017: Due to a clerical issue, the SAHRC sends letter to Mkongi only on this day.
    • The SAHRC receives no response
  • 21 Nov: LHR follows-up with SAHRC
  • 22 Nov: SAHRC notes that it has sent a follow-up mail to the Ministry of Police that gives them 14 days to respond
  • 6 Dec: last day for the Ministry of Police to respond to the SAHRC letter

Documents and Links:

  1. Africa Check Factsheet following the statements[SC11]:
  2. Sonke and LHR complaint to SAHRC
  3. Letter from Hate Crimes Working Group to Minister Mbalula
  4. Letter from Hate Crimes Working Group to Deputy Minister Mkongi
  5. Letter from SAHRC to Deputy Minister Mkongi, cc’ing Minister Mbalula
1 December 2017
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