Thursday, May 22, 2008
South African army has been called in to bolster police efforts to end
the xenophobic clashes that have gripped the country's richest
According to a statement by President Thabo Mbeki's
office on 21 May, "[He] has approved a request from the South African
Police Service [SAPS] for the involvement of the South African National
Defence Force [SANDF] in stopping ongoing attacks on foreign nationals
in Gauteng Province."
At least 23 people have died since
xenophobic violence erupted 10 days ago in Gauteng; the International
Organisation for Migration believes that about 13,000 people have been
On Wednesday night, the army and the police were in talks finalising details of the deployment.
buses have been provided to take foreign nationals driven out of
Primrose, a suburb on the East Rand, to their countries of origin.
Having spent the past few nights in the open, Mario Fernando hopes to
get on one of them. "We were forced out by the amaZulu and Xhosa
people. I will not come back," he said.
Fernando, 34, left his
home in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, to join his brother in the
Ramaphosa informal settlement on Johannesburg's East Rand, only to
"arrive in a war".
After taking refuge at a church in nearby
Reiger Park, another informal settlement, and surviving on food
donations from South African businesses and individuals following a
public appeal, Fernando just wants to go home.
of Reiger Park's Community Crisis Centre, said donations from
sympathetic South Africans had flooded in, while "some just drove here
and gave us food". She said they were feeding about 5,000 people who
had fled violence in the area.
The number of foreign
nationals, both legal and illegal, residing in South Africa is
estimated at anywhere between one million and 10 million, but around
three million are thought to have fled Zimbabwe's imploding economy,
where unofficial estimates now put inflation at 1,000,000 percent, with
no limit in sight.
No foreign nationals are immune from the
effects of the violence and even those residing in Yeoville, an
inner-city Johannesburg suburb where foreign nationals are thought to
outnumber South Africans, are contemplating leaving.
a Malawian who owns a business in Yeoville, told IRIN that people were
talking about disinvesting and establishing businesses in neighbouring
countries, as "there is big pressure and people feel insecure, and they
are thinking: 'I am investing my money here, but will I get it back?'."
said xenophobia was an undercurrent in South African society, but
non-South Africans should accept that they shared some of the blame for
the prejudice directed at them by locals; foreigners were wary of
employing South Africans, as they felt vulnerable. A South African
could tip people off about where money was kept, or inform police about
their employer's residence status, Ayub noted.
The blame game
government believes there are sinister forces at play encouraging the
violence, which has seeped into Mpumalanga Province, adjoining Gauteng,
after two groceries stores owned by Somalis were torched on 21 May.
Some reports cite nearly 500 Somalis as having been killed in
xenophobic attacks in South Africa since 1998.
by the South African government to the riots against foreigners ...
follows an established pattern," said a statement by the Institute for
Security Studies (ISS), a Pretoria-based think-tank.
acknowledged the deeply held xenophobia that apartheid inculcated in
our society, government's reaction reverts to type in the search for
scapegoats and cop-outs. Instead of leadership and engaging with the
root causes of social turbulence, unrest and crime, we are in search of
a conspiracy, a third hand."
The South African Institute of
Race Relations, (SAIRR) a South African policy and research
organisation, said in a statement on 20 May that the blame lay with
failed government policies and inaction, which had created a perfect
"The government's repeated failures to bring levels of
violent crime under control contributed to an environment which saw
people resort to violence without fear of arrest or successful
prosecution. In failing to maintain the rule of law, the state had
conditioned many poor communities to violent behaviour," the SAIRR
Police corruption, incompetence by the
ministry of safety and security, and the poor performance of the
prosecuting authorities had combined to "erode the capacity of the
police to provide a safe and secure environment in South Africa."
Ineffective border controls had allowed millions of people to cross
into South Africa and this was further exacerbated by corruption within
Mbeki's quiet diplomacy provided a lifeline to the ailing Zimbabwe
regime that kept it in power longer than would otherwise have been the
case ... Seen in light of South Africa's inability to secure its
borders, our foreign policy on Zimbabwe was destined to have only one
effect - the inflow of illegal immigrants," the SAIRR commented.
unemployment levels, especially among the youth, and the risks of
long-term unemployment have been ignored by government. "Labour
legislation, hopelessly inappropriate for a largely unskilled
workforce, has contributed to keep many mainly black South Africans out
"Immigrants were able to secure employment, as these
labour policies did not apply to them and they were in many cases able
to make a living free from government grants or regulation," the
authors of the SAIRR statement pointed out.
"The violence we
have experienced over the past week can be directly attributed to a
series of policy failures on the part of Thabo Mbeki's government.
Warnings to that effect were too easily dismissed by government
spokespeople, who accused analysts of racism and 'doom and gloom'
"A 'worst possible scenario' has now materialised
and requires a more mature and measured response from government.
Failing that, we should expect that similar unrest could occur with
little warning in any area of South Africa," the SAIRR said.
Source: IRIN NEWS http://irinnews.org