Ethnic attacks a national crisis

2011-06-18 10:56

The official United Nations’ definition of ethnic cleansing is “rendering an area ethnically homogeneous by using force or intimidation to remove from a given area persons of another ethnic or religious group”.

What we saw in Seshego, Limpopo, this week was nothing less than that: thousands of Zimbabweans violently being driven from their homes into the bush. Their crime? Being Zimbabwean.

During their brutal rampage, residents of Seshego cornered and stoned to death Godfrey Sibanda. Without any proof, Sibanda was labelled a criminal and rapist. He was also Zimbabwean.

This is the same “crime” that led to the horrific arrest, prosecution and execution of Farai Kujirichita by Diepsloot residents earlier this year.

The video of Farai’s killing shocked the world?– and the readers of City Press – after we published it on our website last week.

The reaction to Kujirichita’s killing, judging from comments on Twitter and SMSes sent by readers, fluctuated between extremes.

“Truly speaking, the Zimbabweans are in all bad crimes here?.?.?. They don’t hesitate to kill when they rob. So let them taste their own medicine,” commented Charles.

Precious tweeted: “Just saw the video of the murder of Farai Kujirichita and it changed the way I thought of humanity.

A teen led a mob to kill an innocent man!”

What’s been more deafening than the outpouring of comments from both sides of the fence is the silence from President Jacob Zuma and Cabinet over this new wave of xenophobic attacks. Are they in denial or do they naively believe silence will bring an end to the senseless violence?

A search of government’s website shows that the word “xenophobia” has only been used 17 times in six months, and none of these statements addressed specific incidents of violence against fellow Africans living in South Africa.

During his budget vote speech on June 7, Deputy Justice Minister Andries Nel celebrated this year as the year for people of African descent and said his department would be working with “all sectors in our society” to finalise an action plan to combat xenophobia.

It is too late for an action plan to be drafted when bodies of dead Africans are being counted day after day.

Nel and his colleagues need to recognise that we are dealing with a national crisis and take the necessary steps to prevent a full-scale outbreak of xenophobic violence, only three years after 62 foreigners lost their lives on South African soil.

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