On Freedom Day, Sonke calls on South Africans and government to stand up for equality, freedom and democracy

Sonke Gender Justice (“Sonke”) joins millions of South Africans condemning the xenophobic violence that has taken place regularly in South Africa during the past decade. We call on our government to take decisive action now, and to ensure that all those perpetrating violent crimes in our country are held accountable for their crimes. We also call on all of those who have made discriminatory or xenophobic comments, especially members of government and the Zulu king, Goodwill Zwelithini, to unreservedly apologise for their incendiary remarks, and to be held accountable for their role in the current violence experienced by foreign nationals in South Africa, including by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC).

We call on the South African Presidency, and President Zuma himself, to publicly request that  Zwelithini withdraw and apologise for his harmful remarks in which he told foreigners to return to their countries, knowing full well that he made those statements in a country rife with xenophobia and xenophobic violence, and that he desist from blaming the media or “third forces”.

Following recent  and impressive nationwide protests against xenophobia, including a massive march by civil society in Johannesburg this week, we remind our leaders that our democracy was established upon ideals of equality, non discrimination and freedom, and that South Africans will not sit quietly while some attempt to destroy the foundations of a free and equal South Africa.

We condemn violence, and in particular violent acts flowing from prejudice and hate.  We therefore call on the government to develop sustainable structures to protect all who live in South Africa. We call 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 by addressing the underlying causes of xenophobia such as endemic poverty, inequality, unemployment and pervasive generalised violence by promoting social cohesion and by fostering a culture of respect for human rights and the law. We at Sonke commit ourselves to expanding our work to end discrimination, stigma and violence in the communities in which we work in South Africa.

We also call on President Zuma and government to address violence generally in South Africa, reminding them of the high levels of murder, gender-based violence and violent crime. “South Africa has a deeply violent history and that continues to play out in our society today, at great harm to our people – through crime, gender-based violence and xenophobia,” says Czerina Patel, Sonke’s Communications Manager, “The experience of violence, both historical and current, is eating away at our social fabric, and is literally killing our people. We need to work to reduce violence everywhere, and we are again reiterating our demand to President Zuma and Minister Shabangu to urgently develop a funded national strategic plan to end gender-based violence which must include broad violence prevention strategies in communities throughout South Africa.”

Foreign nationals in South Africa are being used as scapegoats for widespread economic problems in South Africa that are not their fault; and which will continue to exist whether or not foreign nationals reside in South Africa unless the government responds properly and massively improves service delivery.

Government is failing at providing quality education, creating jobs and getting people out of poverty. “The real enemy to South Africa is corruption and nepotism,” says Patel, “If individuals in government spent less effort looking for ways to enrich themselves and to garner power and money for themselves and their families, more resources would be directed towards the improvement of South Africans’ lives; If government put South Africans’ best interests ahead of political interests, we’d have a stronger leadership, one which would be better equipped to deal with the huge challenges of building a new democracy and creating economic opportunity for the poor. Right now, the poor are being left out, and South Africa has become the most unequal country in the world. This has little to nothing to do with African migrants in South Africa, and has everything to do with the failures on the part of our government to govern.”

We invite South Africans and anyone who believes in equality to join us in our advocacy to call for long-term measures to build social cohesion, fight xenophobia and violence, and strengthen democracy, and to march with us for social justice, including in a march this Monday: On Freedom Day, April 27, 2015, we will stand up for democracy, human dignity and a violence-free South Africa and march against xenophobia, afrophobia and all discrimination, rejecting the brutal discrimination of the Apartheid government of the past.

March details:

When: Monday 27th April, 11h00
Where: Town Two Khayelitsha, corner Spine Rd and Jeff Masemola, marching to Site C
[March organized by Equal Education, Treatment Action Campaign, Ndifuni Ukwazi, Social Justice Coalition and Sonke Gender Justice]

[If you can’t join us in Khayelitsha, there will also be a smaller march against xenophobia in Mfuleni (organised by Sonke’s MenCare team), leaving Mfuleni High School at 10am on Monday, April 27, 2015. Call Thulani Velebayi for more details: 060 492-5739]

Media Contact:

Czerina Patel, Sonke Communications Manager
021 423 7088