SA rallies to end attacks on foreign nationals

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

By More Matshediso

Pretoria – South Africans from all walks of life have joined forces with government to show their unwavering support to deal with the root causes of violence against foreign nationals.

Today stakeholders from government, business, sports, the trade union movement, religious leaders, community and youth formations, traditional authorities and the arts fraternity met with President Jacob Zuma to map a way for all sectors of society to end violence against foreign nationals.

“These attacks are not a small matter [and] it is not a matter for government alone but for all of us as South Africans. We don’t need another occurrence of these attacks in our country,” said President Zuma.

Authorities say the latest attacks were sparked in Isipingo, KwaZulu-Natal, after a company there reportedly replaced striking workers with foreign nationals. The attacks subsequently spread to other areas, including Gauteng. Attacks on foreign nationals also took place in January in Soweto after a young man was shot and killed by a foreign shop owner for allegedly breaking into his store.

President Zuma on Wednesday outlined some of the concerns from South Africans about some foreign nationals, which include crime, unfair business practices, drugs and the influx of illegal foreign nationals.

The President reiterated that measures are being taken to address these challenges, including the establishment of an Inter-Ministerial Committee to deal with the socio-economic problems raised by communities.

This week, Ministers and their deputies are undertaking an outreach programme in communities to deal with attacks on foreign nationals and to discuss the country’s migration policy. The South African Police Service (SAPS) has also beefed up security in hotspots to quell incidents of violence.

Briefing the media after today’s lengthy meeting, the President said these attacks have impacted negatively on South Africa’s reputation. They also occurred at a time when South Africa is set to host the World Economic Forum and the African Union Summit in June.

President Zuma said with the support shown by South African society at today’s meeting, government is confident it has committed partners to help it combat attacks on foreign nationals and the challenges facing South Africa.

President Zuma said a task team has been established and it will put together all the proposals and suggestions made at the meeting.

A government programme will be drafted from the issues raised and it will be implemented collectively by government and all sectors of South African society.

We are Africa

President Zuma lamented the use of social media to paint a negative picture of South Africa. He stressed that foreign nationals had been well integrated in many communities for a long time.

He said the overwhelming majority of South Africans are not xenophobic and want to live peacefully with people of other nationalities. He said the violent attacks were callous acts of criminality.

Way forward

The meeting was attended by various stakeholders representing about 40 organisations.

The representatives committed to carrying out civic education in communities to promote good citizenship among young people in support of government efforts to stop the attacks.

The meeting suggested that government should convene a colloquium where all stakeholders should have a discussion and find out what the real causes of these attacks are and find solutions.

The business sector has pledged to develop a plan of action, which will see the sector also speaking out against attacks. The business sector further announced that it will fund a campaign to reverse the negative effect of the attacks.

The meeting suggested that South Africa must consider a major campaign -- called the “Bill of Responsibilities” -- involving all stakeholders, to educate young people about what it means to be South African.

Government should also consider establishing inspectors who can investigate all the shops in the country in the rural areas, townships and cities. Government, stakeholders said, should also consider looking very closely at the movement of goods coming into the country and ultimately into the “spaza” shops in communities.

The sports fraternity has also committed to use sporting events to condemn these attacks and call for unity with fellow Africans.

Representatives at the meeting said solutions must be found urgently to address the genuine concerns raised by South Africans.

President Zuma welcomed the input, saying it would be used by government to formulate the response of the country as a whole.

President Zuma will on Friday meet with organisations representing foreign nationals in the country. -