International migrants in South African are once again the focus of headlines of both local and international mainstream media. This is not good news for the readers, listeners and viewers of news. The xenophobic monster has once again blown its deadly winds in the direction of vulnerable communities of foreign immigrants who live in the Republic of South Africa.
It happened in 2008, 2015 and now in 2017. We have witnessed the flames of xenophobia erupt in Gauteng province – that have been fuelled by the sweeping and reckless statements made by the current Executive Mayor of the City of Johannesburg Councillor Herman Mashaba that were repeatedly uttered in his 100 days of office speech. Without any attempt of sugar coating his utterances or disguising his intentions in his rhetoric, the Mayor is the culprit behind the spate of the xenophobic violence that targeted immigrants mainly from other African countries.
During his various speeches directed at international immigrants, the first citizen of the City of Johannesburg put a special emphasis on undocumented immigrants who he accused of hijacking some buildings in the Johannesburg CBD which they littered and transformed into a jungle. When the South African masses saw the Executive Mayor wearing the Metro Police gear and acting as an immigration officer checking the validity of permits of immigrants in a bid to find undocumented migrants in the streets of Rosettenville, this act served as an impetus for the people at the local grassroots to attack immigrants from other African countries residing in Rosettenville. More than 30 houses were set ablaze in Rosettenville and Pretoria West, as the local people embarked on a spree of destruction that saw houses being burnt, shops owned by migrants looted and even injuries meted out on some migrants
Migrants who chose South Africa as their second home encounter the baleful threat of xenophobia on a daily basis in the streets and in both public and private owned institutions. The discriminatory behaviour that is unleashed against the migrant communities living and working in South Africa has reached unacceptable levels. The hardships that migrants face in communities could have been avoided if the authorities had taken proactive action by rolling out programmes aimed at educating South African citizens on the positive input that migrants offer to the Republic of South Africa rather than focussing on the negative innuendo and the baseless accusations about migrants.
As the African Diaspora Forum (ADF), we met the Executive Mayor of Johannesburg on the 28th of March 2017 with the hope that he would agree to retract his generalised statements about migrants but so far he has refused to do so. It is important to note that on the 1st of March 2017, the African Diaspora Forum (ADF) officially lodged to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) a complaint against the Mayor of Johannesburg, Councillor Herman Mashaba for hate speech and the incitement of violence. We also need to note that we do not have any agreement with the Mayor on holding any Minister accountable for anything. We therefore distance ourselves from any statement that the Mayor can utter on our behalf.
The Africa Diaspora Forum is inviting all political parties to make official public statements regarding their stance or position about the xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals. The ADF has good reason to suspect that there are some political parties that are manipulating their members to attack international migrants.
We are using this opportunity to thank the thousands of South African citizens who are concerned about the violent situation and working around the clock to discourage perpetrators. We are encouraging both foreign nationals and South African citizens to report any criminal activity to the law enforcement agencies. We discourage all to take the law into their own hands. We request and encourage all South African brothers and sisters to continue working with us in educating people on the importance and contributions that the migrants can make in South Africa. We equally encourage all migrants living and working in South Africa to be documented and to remain as law-abiding residents of the Republic. We hope that with the improvements done at the Desmond Tutu Centre with regard to getting documentation it will be much easier for migrants to live in South Africa.
ZASA Magazine also came across this video “A wrap song about xenophobia” on the ADF website that we felt was worth sharing.