Recurring attacks of non-nationals of African descent in SA must be dealt with urgently
It is of major concern that South Africa continues to be the site of persecution of fellow Africans from other parts of the continent. Cross-border long distance truck drivers transporting goods to, and through, South Africa have been under attack from locals in recent weeks.
The economic capital, Johannesburg, came to a stand-still when businesses identified as belonging to non-national Africans were attacked and destroyed, resulting in damage to property, disruption of people’s lives and loss of income. The lives and livelihoods of men, women, children and entire communities who have migrated to South Africa from other African countries for various reasons continue to be in danger on a daily basis – and this needs to end now.
These events have sent shock waves throughout all of Africa, with the global family watching in horror as looting went on with little intervention from the security services. This recurring violence has resulted in mounting anger – and justifiably so. In a number of African countries including Nigeria, Zambia and Mozambique, nationals took to the streets to attack South African-owned businesses and trucks in retaliation to the attacks on their countrymen and women in South Africa.1 But this eye for an eye approach is not helpful.
It should not be that violence begets violence. It is dangerous for diplomatic relations across Africa, as it could have untold implications, including for our economic development, peace and security.
“Thus, we are heartened that the African Union Commission and foreign governments have issued strong formal protests to the government of South Africa in response to these continued attacks. It is also good that the President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, has announced that he was sending a special envoy to express his concerns directly to the President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa. It is also encouraging that Ramaphosa himself has come out to condemn this spate of violence.
The events taking place in South Africa require a co-ordinated and sustained approach by all countries and regional bodies in the region, including the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the East African Community (ECA),” said Hassan Sekajoolo,” chairperson of the Steering Committee of MenEngage Africa Alliance.
“This approach must consider that the attacks in South Africa have been labeled ‘xenophobia’, although they only affect people of African origin. The violence against non-nationals of African descent in South Africa gives rise to a new meaning of the word ‘xenophobia’. The word means ‘a dislike of or prejudice against people from other countries’. The South African situation, however, demonstrates a dislike of or prejudice against people from other countries based on what they look like – being African,” added Mpiwa Mangwiro, Campaigns and Advocacy Specialist for MenEngage Africa Alliance.
Locals in South Africa blame migrants from other African countries for their social and economic woes, including lack of employment, substance abuse, human trafficking, crime levels, lack of housing, and pressures on the health system. As MenEngage Africa Alliance, we realise that the concerns of locals cannot be downplayed.
If claims that non-national Africans are responsible for the proliferation of drugs and various crime syndicates and illegalities are true, the law must be brought to bear upon the perpetrators. At community level, migrants have a responsibility to adhere to the laws of their host country and law enforcers have a duty to uphold and protect the laws and regulations of their country. At national level, there are formal mechanisms between the host country and countries of origin of migrants to deal with offences committed. The truth is that crime is carried out by criminals, irrespective of country of origin. Drugs and other crimes are committed by nationals all the time. Police are enjoined to carry out their mandate in terms of applicable laws.
Furthermore, the Constitution of South Africa sets out that everyone who resides in the country has the right to access health services, irrespective of their nationality or legal status.2 Thus, non-nationals must be allowed to access health care, especially women and children who often rely on state resources for their health needs because of a lack of crucial economic means.
We call on the South African government and all African states, the African Union Commission, and all regional bodies to play their individual and collective roles to ensure that this state of affairs does not continue. Africans cannot be attacking one another when there are peaceful mechanisms to find solutions to our problems.
As MenEngage Africa Alliance, we remain committed to support all efforts that seek to ensure unity of the continent and ensure that the ideals of the founding principles of the African Union Commission are achieved.