JOHANNESBURG – AMID warnings xenophobic utterances could spark a genocide, South African Police Services (SAPS) has distanced itself from social media reports suggesting law enforcement agents were embarking on door-to-door exercise to arrest undocumented foreign nationals in Gauteng Province.
In a telephone interview with CAJ News Africa, Gauteng provincial police spokesman, Captain Kay Makhubela, rejected the reports as malicious and false, adding the issuing of documents such as permits and asylum papers was under the jurisdiction of the Department of Home Affairs.
His sentiments come in the wake of a widely-circulation purportedly from the Home Affairs and the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).
It was reported the door-to-door operations would start on Monday (today) at residences and companies. Social media in South Africa was abuzz with claims that foreign nationals, precisely Nigerians, Pakistan and Zimbabweans would be targeted in the purported operation.
“From the police’s side, there is absolutely nothing of that sort. We don’t really know where that information is coming from,” said Makhubela in a telephone interview with CAJ News Africa.
“There was no such a directive from our head office neither from parliament,” Makhubela said.
He said there had never been such a directive from government.
EFF spokesman, Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, also denied issuing such a statement.
“The EFF rejects the statement that calls for the removal of foreign nationals from the city of Johannesburg released under the name of the EFF. The statement calls for the ostracism of foreign nationals is not only fake but it contradicts everything EFF stands for,” Ndlozi said in a statement.
The opposition party declared EFF Johannesburg, Gauteng and the country belonged to all Africans who live in it.
EFCC therefore called on its members and the public to be careful of fake accounts disseminating divisive news.
“Both Twitter and Facebook accounts of the EFF have been authenticated. EFF statements are therefore released to the public through these outlets together with the official EFF website,” Ndlozi said.
Comment could not be obtained from Home Affairs despite assurances they would respond to questions sent on Saturday.
Home Affairs also promised to issue a press statement on Monday but had not released any at the time of going to press.
The document in question appears to be the aftermath of recent utterances by Johannesburg Mayor, Herman Mashaba, who was quoted as ordering undocumented foreigners to leave the city.
The utterances were deemed xenophobic and likely to spark attacks that peaked in 2008 with the killing of dozens of foreign nationals and locals. Property worth millions was destroyed.
Human rights advocate and Zimbabwe Exiles Forums (ZEF) Executive Director, Gabriel Shumba, warned politicians to guard against inflammatory statements.
“We are aware that the Johannesburg Mayor (Mashaba) has made statements equating crime to the presence of foreigners in the city. These statements are extremely unfortunate and we need to remind ourselves that it was because of hate statements that genocide occurred in many mayoral precincts of Rwanda,” warned Shumba.
In 1994, a genocidal mass slaughter of Tutsi in Rwanda by members of the Hutu majority government left between 900 000 and 1 million Rwandans dead.
Politicians were guilty of inflammatory statements and hate speech.
“We therefore need to be very sensitive about what we say in the context of South Africa, where segregation has for years been institutionalised,” said Shumba.
He said ZEF believed the root of crime in Johannesburg was corruption and impunity than documentation.
“If you go to streets like Pritchard and Delvers, there are gangs now operating in broad daylight, and there are allegations of collusion with those expected to protect the law,” said Shumba.
He said while everyone has a right to freedom of expression and to demonstrate, those rights should not be used to commit hate crimes.
“The generalization that Zimbabweans are stealing jobs, Nigerian’s are drug peddlers, are all reprehensible, reckless and symptomatic of a society that needs healing from prejudice. Long term interventions are necessary,” said Sumba.
He nonetheless appealed on Zimbabweans and other nationals to ensure they had proper documentation and report to ZEF and other organisations all challenges they encounter, including xenophobia.
ZEF has meanwhile called for an emergency meeting with the Zimbabwe Consulate on Wednesday to discuss the recurring fears of xenophobia.
“Equally, we request Home Affairs to urgently convene a meeting of stakeholders to ensure that there is one purpose and one purpose only: to prevent immigrant stereotyping and generalization that can lead to attacks on foreign nationals and possible serious violations of human rights,” added Shumba.
– CAJ News