News / Xenophobia

Sonke calls for greater political leadership and accountability in response to xenophobia

Violent xenophobic attacks on non-nationals, their families and their businesses have become a regular feature of South African society. Since January 2015, Xenowatch has found that xenophobia has caused more than 66 deaths, assaults on at least 116 people and that 11 140 people have been displaced. In recent xenophobic incidents in Rosettenville, Pretoria West, Atteridgeville, Lotus Gardens and Mamelodi more than 60 foreign nationals and South African citizens have been victimised.

Sonke Gender Justice (Sonke) joins fellow human rights activists in South Africa and around the globe to condemn in the strongest possible terms the violence against non-South African individuals living and working within our borders and calls on our government to take urgent action to both protect all people in South Africa, and to prosecute strongly those perpetrating violence against others. We would like to remind the South African government and our community leaders that equality is the hard-fought for cornerstone of our democracy, and there is no space for any violence against people based on their race, nationality, gender, sexual orientation or identity, ethnicity, disability, religion or creed.

We note in particular the devastating effects of xenophobic remarks by government and political leaders on the outbreak and intensification of violence. We appeal to all levels of government to take action against officials who use public platforms to express anti-migrant sentiments, and to protect all who live in South Africa, as enjoined by our constitution.

“Sonke has been working in the refugee health and rights sector since 2007. While we have seen a recent rise in xenophobic attacks in which people have lost their lives, the fact is that foreign nationals experience violence and harassment every single day in South Africa,” says Micheline Minani Muzaneza, a Senior Trainer with Sonke’s Refugee Health & Rights programme. “Non-South Africans get called names like kwere kwere and told, ‘Go back to your country!’,  some get beaten up or thrown from trains.

Many refugees are living in fear. We ran a workshop recently and some people cancelled thinking they may be attacked on their way to the venue. We need to stop this once and for all. In order to do so, the South African justice system and police need to consider xenophobia as a hate crime and government and civil society must assist in terms of social integration.”

Sonke calls on government and civil society to increase the investment in containing the current violence, and to put long-term measures in place to prevent and address violence and hostility, particularly through the promotion of social cohesion and fostering a culture of respect for human rights and the law.


Bafana Khumalo, Director of Strategic Partnerships, Sonke Gender Justice, 082 578 4479,

Marlise Richter, Policy Development & Advocacy Unit Manager, Sonke Gender Justice, 021 423 7088,

3 March 2017
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