Crime and poverty: recipe for xenophobia

Immigrants challenged the anti-immigrant march in Pretoria Pic: GroundUp

A recent media briefing by groups that are concerned about the ongoing xenophobic attacks has blamed the lack of service delivery by the government.

Police battled to keep the groups apart. Pic: GroundUp

In a joint statement and the media briefing by the African Diaspora Forum, New Workers’ Federation, and the United Front, the recent anti-immigrant march in Pretoria was described as the march of despair. It was a demonstration about deep-seated socio-economic challenges faced by the majority of South Africans who still feel neglected after 22 years of democracy. Sadly foreigners remain a scapegoat, as South Africans seek ways to vent their frustrations.

“Employers also need to be blamed for exploiting labour laws and employing desperate immigrants only to give them starvation wages. Imagine a

desperate Zimbabwean in South Africa after being chased by their President. They’ll take up any job for any pay to feed their children,” said Stephen Faulkner, the Federation’s Coordinator.

He said that this is one of the reasons why unemployed South Africans are saying foreigners are taking their jobs. His union, which is launching on the 24th of March 2017 and has Zwelinzima Vavi as its National Convener, will fight against this.

“We will include in our constitution the rights of immigrants to be organized and be represented. Our government allowed them to be in the country. They must be protected,” he said.

He further warned the authorities not to divide communities when fighting crime. Everybody, both South Africans and non-nationals must be united in fighting the crime.

Marc Gbaffou, the Chairman of the African Diaspora Forum said government and major political parties were informed but their response in denouncing the march was not satisfactory.

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“While we sympathize with communities when they raise genuine issues of drugs and brothels, the march in Pretoria was not about that, but rather it was about the attack on immigrants and stealing their meager possessions. South Africa comes from a very painful past. I don’t think it can afford to go back there,” he said and added that people who are xenophobic must be educated that ‘we can live together.’

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), which was also present at the briefing promised to investigate all human rights violations and lashed at utterances made by some politicians and public figures. It said this heightened the tensions.

“Words are strong, powerful and can have deadly consequences. We would like to appeal to all politicians to be aware of their public remarks as this can influence the citizens in a very negative way,” said Gershwel Brookes, the SAHRC.

He said this after Mayor of Johannesburg, Herman Mashaba blamed illegal foreigners for crime in the City. Mashaba has since backtracked on his words and said Johannesburg is against all forms of violence against immigrants.

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About Ramatamo wa Matamong 15 Articles
Also known by his pen name as Ramatamo Wa Matamong, born in the Free State Province, he is an award winning community journalist in the Alexandra township who has covered numerous and extensive topical issues in the township ranging from sports, politics, arts, service delivery protests, strikes, health and economics.