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Invitation from United Front (Joburg region) to organise against xenophobia
Issued 9 February 2017

We are writing to you because we are concerned that xenophobia is rearing its ugly head again in South Africa. In our recent meetings we have been getting reports from various community organisations and civics which suggest this. There does not seem to be any threat of violence yet, but we all know how quickly these things can escalate. We are worried that public figures such as the Mayor of Johannesburg Herman Mashaba have made some xenophobic statements against “illegal foreigners” who hijack buildings in the city. Most seriously, an organisation in Mamelodi is trying to organise a march against “foreigners” in the community – blaming them for the structural unemployment crisis, suggesting that South Africa shouldn’t give refuge to refugees, accusing migrants of drugging women and selling them as sex slaves. What is most worrying is that this organisation has been contacting other areas such Alexandra in an attempt to spread their xenophobic ideas.


Xenophobia is bad for everyone. It divides the working class and the poor. It sows fear and hatred in communities. It can lead to attacks and the death and injury of innocent people. Xenophobic ideas are based on stereotypes and the denigration of foreign nationals. The foundations of xenophobia are racism, tribalism and colonialism. Xenophobia is based on a false analysis and wrong understanding of the problems facing the working class and the poor. The victims of poverty, unemployment and inequality, of oppression and exploitation, end up blaming and attacking each other while the true oppressors and exploiters are left alone to continue with their oppression and exploitation. The struggle for a better life for all is undermined. The struggle against the capitalist exploiter is weakened by xenophobia.

The rise of xenophobia is not happening only in South Africa. The new president Donald Trump has made a law which bans people from “Muslim” countries from travelling into the USA. He won the elections using the slogan “Put America First.” What he really means is that white American men come first and everyone else comes second or third. His slogan is racist, nationalistic, chauvinistic, sexist and exclusivist. We see the same politics by some opportunistic leaders in Europe where there is a rise of right-wing ideas including support for fascism. The situation in Great Britain its exit from the European Union (Brexit) suggests that the capitalist crisis provoked xenophobic sentiments among sections of this society. Many ordinary people in the world are responding to the global economic capitalist crisis by turning to a narrow, inward-looking politics of self-preservation.

Capitalism is a system of exploitation. It is based on stealing the wealth produced by workers. When the bosses cannot make profits they try and make workers pay. They put you on short-time, retrench, close down factories, increase prices, avoid paying taxes, etc. The solution to this is not to fight over the less and less that the capitalists give us. This is what xenophobia does. The solution is to unite and fight against the capitalist class and their system of exploitation. We have to see that the worker next door and from the other country is our brother and sister in the class struggle. The only lasting solution is to overthrow the capitalist system and replace it with a system where the wealth will be shared equally by all.

We therefore call upon all community and trade union leaders, all community organisations and unions, all civics and youth/student formations to be on guard against these reactionary elements who are spreading xenophobia. Silence is consent. We must take active steps to fight and eradicate this cancer.

Some steps that we can all take to fight the xenophobia cancer are the following:

  1. Put xenophobia on our meeting agendas. In our civics, community structures and unions. Discuss and analyse the issue. Take a resolution against xenophobia.
  2. Discuss the history of colonialism and how Africans and other peoples of the world were divided by the colonisers. Discuss ideas of struggle that were used to unite the colonised such as nationalism, Pan-Africanism, South-South solidarity and socialism. Debate whether and how we can use them to fight against xenophobia today.
  3. Make contact with migrant organisations that exist in our communities. Find ways of working together on campaigns that affect us all e.g. the struggle for houses for all.
  4. Speak out against xenophobia in any public/mass meetings we attend.
  5. Speak out against xenophobia in any private discussions we have.
  6. Speak to the police in our areas and express your concern. Get the details of a high-ranking officer that we can call if violence or looting breaks out in the area.
  7. Defend foreign migrants and nationals that are under attack. An injury to one is an injury to all.

You and your organisation are invited to send three delegates to attend a public meeting of the United Front of Johannesburg which will discuss xenophobia in detail including its causes, forms and how to eradicate it. Other matters relating to the struggles of workers, communities and students will also be discussed.

DATE: Sunday, 19 February 2017
TIME: 10 a.m. until 1 p.m.
VENUE: 5th floor, J C Bez Numsa House, 32-34 Eloff Street, Johannesburg CBD.