The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), Ndifuna Ukwazi, Sonke Gender Justice (“Sonke”), Triangle Project and the Gay and Lesbian Network (Pietermaritzburg) condemn in the strongest terms the recent attacks on foreign nationals and the looting of shops run by foreign nationals in Gauteng and Kwazulu-Natal.
We hold that foreign nationals have a right to all the same protections under the law as South Africans. We reject any and all attempts to undermine the dignity and human rights of foreign nationals. We consider xenophobic violence to be a direct attack on the freedom we struggled for so many years in this country and an antithesis to our democracy.
In 2008, TAC and a diverse group of individuals who went on to form the Social Justice Coalition played an integral part in the civil society response to a serious outbreak of xenophobic violence in Cape Town and surrounds. It is very disappointing that seven years later we are faced with a similarly disturbing situation.
We urge all who live in South Africa, and especially those who hold public office, to refrain from making comments that can intentionally or unintentionally fuel the spread of xenophobia. We are particularly alarmed by xenophobic comments reportedly made by Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini, saying that foreign nationals should return to their countries. We urge Zwelithini to make a public apology to all foreign nationals living in South Africa, to use his influence to urge people to cease xenophobic attacks immediately. Besides the fact that returning to their countries would put many foreign nationals at great risk, Zwelithini should not be adding to the hostility facing foreign nationals in South Africa, nor contributing to a xenophobic environment here.
We also urge the public not to be misled by populist politicians who blame unemployment and other social problems on foreign nationals. Blaming foreign nationals is a red herring and disguises the fact that South Africa benefits from international skills, experience and the additional jobs that are created by many cross-border migrants. We should not allow this populism to distract us from the pressing problems of inequality, social justice and a dysfunctional public service.
We welcome President Jacob Zuma’s decision to deploy Minister of Home Affairs Malusi Gigaba, Minister of Police Nathi Nhleko, and Minister of State Security David Mahlobo to Kwazulu-Natal to address the outbreak of xenophobic violence there. While this is a positive development, government must take more proactive steps to ensure that the rights of foreign nationals are not infringed upon, to remove barriers for foreign nationals to legally reside and work in South Africa and to strengthen social cohesion for all living in South Africa.
We are also concerned that the displacement of foreign nationals may restrict their access to healthcare and other services. Government has an obligation to ensure that foreign nationals can continue to access these services. Failure to do so poses great risk to both South Africans and foreign nationals living here.
Sonke Media Contacts:
- Marlise Richter
Policy Development and Advocacy Specialist, Sonke Gender Justice
021 423 7088 firstname.lastname@example.org
- Czerina Patel
Communications Manager, Sonke Gender Justice
021 423 7088
- Micheline Minani Muzaneza Bagona
Refugee Health and Rights Co-ordinator
021 423 7088