Enough is enough

The once hated apartheid state, which was miraculously transformed in 1994, is once again in danger of being branded a pariah.

05 September 2019 | International

ELLANIE SMIT



Outrage is growing against the resurgent xenophobic black-on-black violence in South Africa.

This follows a spate of looting and violent attacks on foreigners in the neighbouring country.

Namibians have been warned to avoid “no-go areas”, as both the African Union (AU) and SADC condemned the attacks.

The attacks have resulted in Zambia’s cancellation of a football match against Bafana Bafana, amid safety fears. Nigeria has also called for sanctions against South Africa.

South African business in Nigeria are also under siege, while some African leaders withdrew from the World Economic Forum (WEF) Africa that started in Cape Town yesterday, due the xenophobic attacks.

The presidents of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Malawi and Rwanda cancelled their participation at the gathering. President Hage Geingob is, however, attending the event that ends on Friday.

The ongoing xenophobic violence in South Africa has seen the destruction of small businesses owned by foreign nationals.

Shops were looted and foreigners were attacked by hoards of infuriated locals in Gauteng, who were systematically targeting non-native business owners and immigrants.

Tensions regarding criminal activities by foreigners reached boiling point, spilling over in a heinous fashion this past Sunday.

The anger - directed at anyone who could be identified as an immigrant - even gripped the Johannesburg city centre.

Five people have been killed so far, with South African president Cyril Ramaphosa vowing to react swiftly and decisively to stop the attacks.

The South African police, however, confirmed yesterday that three of the five people killed were in fact South Africans and that almost 300 arrests had been made in the Gauteng province since the weekend’s bloodshed.

Namibia’s high commissioner in South Africa, Veiccoh Nghiwete, cautioned all Namibians living and travelling to that country to take extra precautionary measures to ensure their safety in the face of widespread attacks and looting.

He further warned all Namibians in and around Gauteng about the ongoing riots and said in light of the violent unrest, Namibians should remain vigilant at all times and avoid all hotspots around the province, until the situation is calmed.

“Some of the no-go areas include the Pretoria central business district (CBD), Marabastad, the Johannesburg CBD, Hillbrow, Turfontein, Jeppestown and Malvern, and Tembisa and Sunnyside have also recently been affected,” Nghiwete said.

He said any Namibians affected by the current attacks should report it to the high commission in Pretoria or the Namibian consulate in Cape Town.

South African media specialist from Tangaza Africa Media, Professor Nixon Kariithi, told Namibian Sun that the country cannot allow sovereign states to withdraw from major conferences because they do not feel respected.

“A statement by South Africa on these attacks during the WEF will not suffice. The response by South Africa needs to be a systematic platform,” Kariithi said.

He stressed that South Africa cannot sell itself as an investment destination when there is no respect for one’s property rights.

‘Self-hate’

“These attacks are not just a question regarding foreigners, but are also about respect of ownership. It does not matter if it is a small business or not.”

Kariithi said the violent attacks on foreigners comes back to self-dignity and self-hate, and says something about policing in South Africa.

“The crime and vandalism that is taking place gives the idea that these individuals have a sense of invincibility; that nothing will happen to them. Policing has not been well-implemented.”

Kariithi said South Africa has a big problem.

“South Africa has a major problem on its hands. We do not hear of these types of crimes in Namibia and other countries. It is a problem of a major scale.”

Ramaphosa was expected to lead a top-level delegation to the economic forum yesterday, in order to pitch South Africa as an investment destination.

Venaani enters the fray

Meanwhile, Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) leader McHenry Venaani confirmed to Namibian Sun that he has written letters to both the AU and SADC, urging them to call South Africa to order.

“It is appalling what is happening in South Africa and as the chairperson of the trade customs and migration committee of the Pan-African Parliament (PAP), I will not keep quiet about the lawlessness that is happening in South Africa,” Venaani said.

He stressed that South Africa needs to be punished and SADC and the AU have to intervene.

“If there are migrants who are not following the laws, this must be dealt with accordingly by law-enforcement, not by taking the law into one’s own hands.”

Venaani contributed the spate of xenophobic attacks to what he termed “South Africa’s uncontrollable society”, which must be dealt with.

In his letters to SADC and the AU he said waves of xenophobic attacks have already swept across South Africa in 2008 and claimed at least 62 lives.

He said subsequent incidents, particularly in 2015, displaced thousands of African migrants and led to the large-scale looting of their shops and other businesses.

“Sadly this has started again, with threats, attacks and killings of fellow brothers and sisters from other African countries. It makes us question where did our sense of Ubuntu go?

“The fundamental laws of South Africa guarantee the sanctity of all life and we cannot be silent spectators as the hooliganism take centre stage in the sister republic,” Venaani wrote.

He requested the AU and SADC to condemn the xenophobic attacks, as they are inhumane and against Pan-Africanism.

AU speaks

AU Commission chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat said it condemns in the strongest terms the incidents of violence against nationals of fellow African countries in South Africa, including the looting and destruction of their property.

In a statement, Mahamat said he is encouraged by arrests already made by South African authorities.

He called for further immediate steps to protect the lives of people and their property.

He further called on all perpetrators to be brought to book for their acts, and that justice should be done to those who suffered economic and other losses.

Mahamat further reiterated the AU’s continued commitment to supporting the South African government in addressing the root causes that led to these despicable acts, in order to promote peace and stability, within the framework of the AU’s longstanding principles of continental solidarity.

Executive secretary of SADC, Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax, said they condemn in the strongest possible terms the inhumane acts and violence against foreign fellow Africans, as well as the looting and destruction of property in South Africa.

He also called for a lasting solution.

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