State ‘needs to do more’ to prevent xenophobia

2015-03-04 11:11

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

South Africa’s state institutions have been accused of being complicit when it comes to xenophobia, and various organisations have collectively called for the government to take a firm position on xenophobic attacks.

The view that the government was not doing enough to prevent xenophobic attacks from occurring was shared last night at the Mail & Guardian African truth talk hosted by the University of the Witwatersrand.

The chairperson of the African Diaspora Forum, Marc Gbaffou, accused South Africa’s state institutions of being complicit in xenophobia.

“The response of some officials at places such as the South African Revenue Service, home affairs department and some city departments has been clearly xenophobic. We’ve heard government officials calling on foreign nationals to share their trade secrets in exchange for their safety in the townships,” he said referring to comments made by Minister of Small Business Lindiwe Zulu.

While speaking about how the government would tackle the looting and violence against foreign business owners, Zulu said: “Foreign business owners in South Africa’s townships cannot expect to coexist peacefully with local business owners unless they share trade secrets.”

Gbaffou said he had heard from migrants who had had their cars stolen and, upon reporting it to the police, were asked by the police “if they left Burundi with cars”.

There was also the case of a woman who went to report a rape and was asked by police who asked her to come to South Africa, Gbaffou added.

The panel – which included representatives from the United Nations Children’s Fund, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the African Diaspora Forum, the International Organisation for Migration, the University of Witwatersrand and the Consulate General of Nigeria – was moderated by 702 Afternoon Drive host, Xolani Gwala.

“The main official line of the government has been denialism; they say that xenophobia is not an issue,” Jean Pierre Misago, a researcher at the University of Witwatersrand, said.

“There were those who were concerned that xenophobic attacks might happen again after 2008. We were seen to be prophets of doom, but it has been revealed now that no effective preventative measures were taken by the South African government,” Misago added.

The Nigerian ambassador to South Africa, Uche Ajulu-Okeke, called for South Africans to prioritise the growing issue of xenophobia because they themselves come from a past of institutionalised exclusion and understood what the impacts of excluding people could be on a society.

“Migrants in this country are painted as terrorists or a threat to national security and are constantly facing unfounded claims of criminality. Criminal stereotypes against Nigerians have led to abuse and Nigerians cannot rely on protection from the South African police,” she said.

Clementine Awu Nkweta-Salami, representative for the UN Refugee Agency, said that despite having one of the best constitutions in the world, South Africa was failing to meet the challenge of implementing its objectives.

Many members of the audience agreed that the government was not doing enough to educate the public and inform them about misperceptions of migrants in the country.

Richard Ots, Chief of Mission at the International Organisation for Migration ended off the evening by calling for South Africa to “maintain its reputation for diversity and hospitality”.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.