Effective, on-going action needed to stop xenophobia and crime

2017-02-27 18:58

Recently I have been reading very distressing and disturbing lead stories in our newspapers regarding the steady increase in hate statements and xenophobia related violence. Violence against foreigners has erupted regularly in recent years, possibly due to the high rate of unemployment, abject poverty, lack of service delivery and sufficient jobs.

It is unacceptable to observe disregards to  the core principles and values enshrined in our Constitution, through violence motivated by hate and intolerance against minority groups, soft targets  and through bigotry and marginalisation of those regarded as ‘different’ because of  religious beliefs, nationality or ethnicity. Irrespective of religious or cultural beliefs or ethnic origin, everyone living in South Africa has a fundamental right to respect, equality, dignity and to be protected from criminals and violence. The recent march against foreign nationals in Gauteng provides evidence of the fact that such understanding is lacking in our society and needs to be addressed through critical conversations and education.

Open expressions of xenophobic statements draw the attention of social media users who in turn amplify it or further disseminate it without thinking about the consequences of these statements.

In this context it’s time to wake up and have important, courageous critical conversations regarding racism, hate speech and xenophobia. Simply saying it’s aimed at crime is living in denial. All forms of hate are a threat to social cohesion and economic progress and are truly unacceptable and a law-breaking. The sporadic backlash against foreigners damages and hurts the vision of our predecessors like Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and other stalwarts of the struggle against apartheid.

The fight against bigotry in its many forms, and related intolerance, as well as efforts to respect and protect democracy, the constitution and fundamental rights must be an on-going effort in the face of unfamiliar challenges. This effort requires political will and all role players to work closely, efficiently and effectively. Government officials, law enforcement agencies, the criminal justice system, educational authorities, human rights organisations, Non-Governmental organisations (NGO’s) and civil society organisations must work hand in hand to combat this beast.

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