JOHANNESBURG – FOLLOWING a barrage of criticism from human rights groups, government and refugee communities, the executive mayor of Johannesburg Herman Mashaba has made u-turn to his earlier statements where he accused foreign nationals as criminals.
Mashaba’s statements, widely viewed as xenophobic and anti-foreign nationals were used by locals to kill foreigners, harm, loot and destroy their properties in Johannesburg, a negative development which spread like veld fire to the capital city Pretoria.
The outbursts also encouraged locals in Rosettenville and others in Pretoria calling themselves as Mamelodi Concerned Residents, who misconstrued Mashaba’s utterances as an endorsement fight against foreign before taking the law into their own hands.
The locals reacted by unleashing the orgy of violence against migrants, mainly Nigerians and Zimbabweans while looting their property.
In a surprise but widely welcomed statement on Wednesday, Mashaba condemned in strongest terms both xenophobic and criminal elements in ‘his city’ Johannesburg.
“I am deeply concerned to hear reports of xenophobic attacks and planned protests which aim to target foreign nationals residing within communities across Gauteng.
“I would like to state outright that I condemn xenophobia and my administration will do everything in its power to prevent any outburst of xenophobic violence in our city,” Mashaba said.
He said there was no place for xenophobia in Johannesburg arguing the city was built by and made up of migrants from all over the world.
“We are the pride of our country and continent and we cannot allow for foreign nationals to be scapegoated for the failures of previous administrations to fulfil its promises,” he said.
Admittedly, Mashaba said: “There are many people who out of desperation due to political, social and economic instability in their countries are seeking a better life in South Africa. It is essential that national government cleans up its act and ensures that there is quick and efficient processing of asylum seekers and refugees.”
He urged the government protect foreign nationals wishing to legitimately enter South Africa from criminal elements such as slum lords and drug traffickers, whom he accused of abusing their desperation to evade the law.
“I welcome foreign nationals into our city and country. Foreign nationals buy goods in our country, create businesses and stimulate economic growth. This is key to our vision of a prosperous and inclusive city.
“I call on all residents living in our City, no matter where you are from, to respect the laws. Rightfully, communities feel frustrated and burdened by the reality of not having jobs which permit them to support themselves and their loved ones and, of course, we must reject criminality in all its forms within our communities,” Mashaba said in a statement.
He added: “However, attacks on foreign nationals is an unfortunate misdirection of the community’s demand for safety and jobs.”
He said while sympathising with the concerns of communities, Mashaba said could not condone partaking in xenophobic action that would endanger the safety of residents.
“To do so would be to open the door to attacks such as those seen in 2008 in which dozens of foreign nationals were senselessly killed,” he said.
Mashaba also noted the South Africans had a right to be angry citing government’s failure to stimulate job creation and increase the number of opportunities for all within the economy.
“Equally, we can never accept lawlessness in our city and any criminal, whether a South African national or a foreign national must be apprehended.
“My administration in Johannesburg is doing everything in its power to turn the tide on high crime rates in our city and we have already made solid inroads through increased police visibility, intelligence-led policing and through the efforts of the K9-Narcotics Unit that I launched towards the end of last year,” Mashaba said.
He said he understood the frustration of locals saying have witnessed it firsthand in engagements with communities.
“However, we cannot allow our communities to descend into lawlessness. In my recent engagements with community members in Rosettenville I emphasized the need for residents not to take the law into their own hands and rather allow law enforcement to deal with matters of illegality and crime.
“Foreign nationals are not our enemy. By working together with our foreign brothers and sisters and by all of us observing the rule of law, we can create safe, integrated and prosperous communities for mutual benefit,” Mashaba said.
He also discouraged some planned xenophobic marches by locals, instead, he accused the national government of failure to create meaningful and sustainable economic growth for our country and to secure our borders.
African Diaspora Forum (ADF) Chairman, Marc Gbaffou welcomed the Mayor’s statement but said he would wait for the meeting with him.
“The Mayor (Mashaba) is requesting to meet with us next week. His PA will communicate the date by tomorrow latest. We will advise you colleagues,” Gbaffou.
– CAJ News