Umar Stambuli – Cii News | 30 Jumadal Ukhra 1436/20 April 2015
The xenophobic attacks that have swept across South Africa, claiming lives of foreign nationals have set the motion of debates on the real cause behind the violence. One major motive behind the attacks has been that the foreigners are taking away local jobs hence the high unemployment rate in the country.
This argument has been thrown aside by two studies undertaken by The Migrating for Work Research Consortium (MiWORC), an organisation that examines migration and its impact on the South African labour market. In its findings which first appeared on africacheck.org, it focused on labour data collected in 2012 by Statistics South Africa.
They found that 82% of the working population aged between 15 and 64 were “non-migrants”, 14% were “domestic migrants” who had moved between provinces in the past five years and just 4% could be classed as “international migrants”. With an official working population of 33,017,579 people, this means that around 1,2 million of them were international migrants.
Whilst many are still grappling with these hard facts and seeking an escape of the sad reality of xenophobia which has tainted the image of South Africa, a new documentary which will be launched this week will certainly be a shocker.
In her documentary, Xenophobia: A crime with a new face?, Shamsaad Sayed followed the spates of xenophobic attacks from 2008, interviewing the victims and perpetrators of this violence.
The documentary which will be launched on major television networks in the coming weeks reveals that some of the youths behind such attacks are funded by big sharks to carry out such atrocities.
“We went with our cameras filming and from nowhere a group of youngsters well dressed, came to us and said what are you doing here, get out before there’s trouble. The locals and foreigners in the area told us to move out.
Apparently what the locals told us is that these young people are funded by these nameless people and get the support from the mayor. This is all going to come out when the documentary is launched,” Sayed told Cii News.
She said she has highlighted the issue on relevant authorities on what is happening on the ground and has it all captured in the documentary that what shot over a three year period.
Education, the only way out
Sayed whose trailer for the documentary will be streaming on social media this week, said xenophobic attacks in many areas call for robust debate and highlighted that corruption and lack of education among South Africans has contributed to these brutal and deadly attacks that has received condemnation worldwide.
“We need to educate the public that the position of immigrants and asylum seekers are protected by local and international law, we can’t change that. We cannot call them illegal immigrants,” she said.
Sayed stressed that institutional racism which is a remnant of apartheid era continues to dog South Africa. She pointed out that locals have not been equipped with entrepreneurial skills which then cause tension when they see foreign shop owners prospering yet they remain stuck in one place.
The disturbing images of foreigners beaten, reports of immigrants killed at the hands of local South African was met with disdain throughout Africa. An unexpected backlash was swift in Mozambique, where any vehicle with South African number plates was stoned. The anger of Africa was stemming from the non-action from South African government and the ruthless of its citizens towards fellow Africans.
Lack of African identity
The calls to boycott South African companies and products have been loud and clear. A peace activist from Uganda Robert Adiama told Cii News from his Kampala base that it was high time South Africa value their identity as Africans.
“What’s happening in South Africa is totally absurd. They should remember Africa not only prayed for the country during apartheid but contributed time and logistics to assist them in complications they were entangled in.
But the reception they have given to other Africans through xenophobia shows that they have not directly understood the value of their identity as Africans,” said Adiama.
He said South Africans should get rid of chauvinism which is eroding their attitude towards other African states. He warned South Africa that these violence attacks on fellow Africans will turn the entire continent against them.
“You have the determination to pick a stone and throw to a beehive but you have no authority to control the reaction of the bees on you.”
“What the South Africans don’t know is what they are doing will determine the reaction of people from other countries over them and their commodities. This will also have a negative impact on South Africans who are progressively living in other countries,” he said.
Shoks Mnisi Mzolo – Cii News | 30 Jumadal Ukhra 1436/20 April 2015
For a country scarred by centuries of violence and brutality, in the form of colonialism and apartheid, South Africa neglected to embark on rehabilitation mechanisms necessary for societies recovering from such abnormalities and pain. As such, many people continue to, perhaps unconsciously, still carry or exhibit psychological scars. This is likely to continue for centuries, unless this problem is tackled head on rather than avoided or wished away.
Speaking to Sabahul Khair, Scotland-based social activist and student, Lukhona Mnguni explained the impact of not under-going post-trauma healing process. “Because we haven’t (embarked on rehabilitation) we have not imbued a consciousness amongst our citizens that violence is not the answer to the problems that we have. The fact that some citizens still see violence, still see inflicting pain on others, as a response to their own problems is an indictment on our own democracy. Our democracy is not as consolidated and mature as we’d like to think,” said the activist.
Runaway joblessness and economic disenfranchisement, which robs ordinary people of dignity and esteem, cannot be underplayed, he added. This, he said, was partly why attacks played out in low-end communities in the main.
“I think what is happening is something that needs us to ask deeper questions as a country, and also reflect on what have we done or not done since the (first) xenophobic attacks that happened in 2008 which started off in Gauteng. This time, they seem to have started off in Durban but we’re also aware that there was a wave of attacks in Soweto earlier in the year. So for me, this really confirms that we have neglected conversations that we should be having as a nation where issues of immigration are concerned,” said Mnguni. “We need to look at a variety of questions.”
Much as it’s not been much of an issue hitherto, immigration is not unique to the South African context. Britain, set for May 7 polls, is grappling with such with right-wing entities harping on immigration as an electioneering weapon.
“Immigration is dominating very much the elections debate,” Mnguni said, referring to “British nationalism” which also seeks to withdraw Britain, in some quest of assertion of identity or self-determination, from the likes of the EU. At the forefront of this exclusivity project is the UK Independence Party, under Nigel Farage (formerly with the Conservative Party). UKIP, and its other conservatives, seeks to limit the number of people who travel to Britain.
Back to what is happening in South Africa, notably post-1994 when the anti-apartheid discourse reached climax, Mnguni noted that politicisation and kindling of social consciousness ceased with the advent of democracy. The revolutionary spirit and discourse, directed at defeating apartheid, or crime against humanity, did not sustain into the democracy era. “After 1994, what happened in South Africa is that citizens were no longer being mobilised with politicisation and intellectual discourse that would allow them to imagine a new South Africa and take responsibility of what South Africa means to the growing of Africa as a continent.”
This, the Edinburgh-based activist added, was what former president and pan-Africanist Thabo Mbeki was trying to do with the African Renaissance project at one point. Mbeki, along now-former Nigerian leader Olusegun Obasanjo, Muammar Qaddafi and peer African leaders advocated African development and entrenching cooperation and the self-sufficiency. This project was no panacea and its downside, as far as economic matters go, can’t be underplayed.
“What that project failed to do, in a continental context, when the Organisation for African Unity was being transformed into the African Union it lost its pan-Africanism perspective and outlook to the continent and started promoting, amongst other things, free trade but also very neo-liberal orientations of the African continent and therefore countries were now competing to attract foreign direct investors as opposed to continuously unifying to eradicate conflict on the continent and ensure there’s greater peace,” Mnguni, from the University of Edinburgh, before tackling the project’s failure and how this manifests itself by way of resources and armed conflict.
“Whatever is happening right now in South Africa is actually a testament that the African continent is not at peace and many citizens have had to leave their homes in search for better opportunities. They do come to South Africa but many of them go to other places as well. Just hundreds of people, in the last 24 hours or so, are said to have died in the boat that capsized in the Mediterranean Sea – (it’s) another testament that African citizens continue to leave their countries and their homes in ways that put their lives in vulnerable positions,” Mnguni told Cii listeners. And so, decades after the birth of the AU, not to mention what pan-Africanism stands for, it’s: A luta continua.
Adam Wakefield, News24
Gauteng saw reports of overnight xenophobic violence in Actonville in Benoni, east of Johannesburg, where residents attempted to loot foreign-owned shops, clashing with police till the early hours of Monday morning.
Gauteng police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Lungelo Dlamini was not immediately available for comment.
Earlier on Monday, Dlamini said three people had been arrested in connection with the murder of Mozambican national Emmanuel Sithole.
“The suspects were arrested in Alexandra with the help from the members of the community,” Dlamini said.
“Several exhibits that may be used as evidence were seized during the arrests.”
The group was arrested on Sunday evening.
The 35-year-old Sithole was stabbed in Alexandra on Saturday morning and later died in hospital.
The three are expected to appear in the Alexandra Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday on charges of murder.
Dlamini said a manhunt for a fourth person was continuing.
On Sunday, Gauteng police announced a reward of up to R100 000 for information that may lead to the arrest and conviction of those who killed Sithole.
Meanwhile, University of Johannesburg staff and students will take to the street on Monday to march from the Auckland Park Kingsway campus to the Brixton police station.
Last week, at least six people died and thousands were displaced as hostility between some locals and foreigners escalated in Durban and parts of Johannesburg.
Earliest reports show that the first sparks were at the end of March, when the Daily News reported that crisis talks had started in the province on March 31 after 170 foreigners were displaced, sleeping on police station lawns and in their cars.
This seemed to be as a result of anger over an Umlazi business firing staff and replacing them with foreign nationals.
South Africans chased out of Mozambique
“Our employees are hiding at various police stations. We had to call back our drivers who were just getting into Mozambique. Some trucks have been pelted with stones, but there’s not much damage; we just fear for their lives.
“In the early hours of the day, our drivers in the harbour were attacked and police had to intervene and they have since secured our trucks. We are looking forward to the situation being calm. But as we speak, it’s not business as usual in Mozambique due to the retaliation of the Mozambicans over the xenophobic attacks in South Africa,” Luvhani said.
Mozambican national Sabelo Benito, who works at the Fish Market in Maputo, said he and his colleagues had received an SMS saying they should not travel to Mbombela because it was too dangerous.
“We got this SMS from some people around; it’s circulating and they are saying it’s very dangerous to travel to Mbombela as South Africans are killing our brothers and sisters. They said we must also retaliate and hurt them. This is not good for us here because our visitors are now scared. Some have since said they are going back to South Africa,” said Benito.
Border gates closed
Constable Lawrence Ntuli, who is stationed at the Lebombo border post, said the gate was closed for some time in the morning following the incidents outside Ressano Garcia, but they had since received confirmation from Mozambican police and motorists that the roads had been cleared.
“We just got information now from the police that the situation in Mozambique is fine and motorists are now travelling to Mozambique. The situation looks calm at the moment and traffic is flowing as normal. We cannot easily say it’s all fine, but we are getting reports on the situation,” said Ntuli.
The Mozambican consul attached to Limpopo and Mpumalanga, Esperanca Cuna, said things were “okay” as far as they were concerned.
“Our people travelling to Nelspruit [Mbombela] are safe [according to] the police of South Africa, but we have not yet heard of things in Mozambique. We hope all will be fine soon,” he said.
He rejected reports of an SMS inciting Mozambican’s to retaliate against South Africans.
“The issue of an SMS which has been going around is a rumour; we don’t have the SMS. What is said there is lies,” said Cuna.
In a Facebook video, South African employees in Inhambane, Mozambique, are seen being asked to leave by a peaceful group of Mozambicans and colleagues.