Police treatment of foreigners slammed

2015-04-09 17:24
(File, Nielen de Klerk, News24)

(File, Nielen de Klerk, News24)

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Durban - Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) issued a stern condemnation on Thursday over the treatment of foreign nationals at the hands of police in Durban.

On Wednesday, a group of over 300 foreign nationals gathered in central Durban for an organised march to protest a spate of xenophobic attacks.

While permission for the march had been granted, it was withdrawn as the procession was about to start, with police insisting they could not guarantee the safety of the marchers.

When they refused to disperse, police fired on the crowd with a water cannon, stun grenades and tear gas.  

LHR spokesperson Melissa Du Preez decried the methods employed by the police.

“Most concerning is the use of rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons by police to disperse the roughly 300 foreign nationals who defied the revocation of their permission to protest against recent xenophobic attacks in the area.

"Unfortunately, foreign nationals are not given a platform to voice their fears and concerns. These groups have legitimate fears and it is vital that they be allowed to raise these publicly with the support of South African authorities,” she said.

“LHR was alarmed at the heavy-handedness of officers dealing with demonstrators at the Durban City Hall on Tuesday when they should have instead been protecting them.

"The right to protest is a constitutional one and the proper channels were followed before the anti-xenophobia march was undertaken. That permission to proceed with the march was withdrawn at the eleventh hour was an affront to this constitutional right and echoed ongoing xenophobic comments and actions by senior government officials,” she added.

Du Preez cited anti-foreigner rhetoric from Zulu monarch Goodwill Zwelithini which appears to have sparked the violence.

“These types of generalised and xenophobic statements have no place in a democratic society and LHR welcomes calls for Zwelithini to re-examine and explain the remarks. LHR calls for compassion and tolerance in the face of ongoing tensions so that displaced foreign nationals of Durban’s violence may return home after being accommodated at a makeshift camp at Isipingo Beach,” she said. 

Read more on:    durban  |  xenophobia

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