African Press Association
South African President Jacob Zuma

Zuma petitioned over recurring intolerance

South African President Jacob Zuma

South African President Jacob Zuma

JOHANNESBURG – AN umbrella body for foreign nationals in South Africa has petitioned President Jacob Zuma expressing recurrent xenophobia by some political leaders and civil groups.

The open letter by the African Diaspora Forum (ADF) has been copied to Home Affairs minister, Malusi Gigaba, Gauteng Province Premier David Makhura, Acting National Police Commissioner, Lt. Gen. Khomotso Phahlane, President of the South African Local Government Association (SALGA), Parks Tau and Johannesburg Mayor, Herman Mashaba.

Mashaba is accused of fanning xenophobia following his utterances towards the end of last year when he ordered undocumented foreign nationals to leave “his” city. He blamed foreigners for prevalent crime.

It is believed the utterances motivated planned anti-migrants protests set for the capital Pretoria.

A group calling itself Mamelodi Concerned Residents is planning a march denouncing foreign nationals for allegedly masterminding crime.

ADF slammed these sentiments as slanderous and defamatory as well as a violation of migrants’ rights.

It has thus written to Zuma.

“We hereby (African nationals) wish to alert your office and to request that you make a pronouncement on the development of an atmosphere of xenophobic fear and hatred in the country,” read the letter to Zuma.

“This is related to the xenophobic utterances made by the Mayor of Johannesburg, Councillor Herman Mashaba, on the 1st December 2016. His remarks have sparked off an inflammatory discourse in the social media calling for violence against foreign nationals and instilling fear among them.”

The letter was jointly signed by ADF Chairman Marc Gbaffou, National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) chairman Kau-Kau Rasehlo and South African socialist and anti-apartheid activist, Trevor Ngwane.

They reiterated their concern over Mashaba’s sentiments.

“In his 100 days in office speech Mayor Mashaba, vented his xenophobic frustration against ‘illegal’ foreign migrants residing in Johannesburg calling them criminals and blaming them for the squalor and chaos in the city’s inner city,” part of the letter reads.

Comment could not be obtained from Zuma’s office.

The concerned groups and individuals demanded urgent action be taken to oppose the march planned for late February by the Mamelodi Concerned Residents.

The group is distributing material motivated by xenophobia.

They complain the South African government is granting asylum to foreign nationals while there is a high unemployment rate.

They claim foreign nationals eventually commit crime.

“Zimbabweans, Nigerians, Pakistanis etc are not our countrymen. [They] bring nothing but destruction; hijack our buildings, sell drugs; inject young South African ladies with drugs and sell them as prostitutes,” read a pamphlet.

ADF said this was contempt of the Constitution ( 1996: Chapter 2, sub-section 10) upholding the protection and respect of migrants’ rights.

The Forum appealed to all relevant state and government bodies, including police and intelligence agencies, and civil organisations to denounce xenophobia.

– CAJ News