Protest against SA businesses

By Karen Singh Time of article published Sep 5, 2019

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Durban - Former UN high commissioner for human rights, Judge Navi Pillay, said last night that South Africa and African countries had not signed the international convention on the protection of migrant workers and their families.

Judge Pillay headed the provincial task team which investigated xenophobic attacks in 2015.

“I call on all these countries to get together and adopt policies that protect migrants. They are valuable, and provide a valuable service here and all over the world. They should be respected,” said Judge Pillay.

She added that it was a legitimate priority for a government to protect its own population.

“It’s valid here where we have 29% unemployment in the country. It’s quite reasonable to see in such a picture that the complaints of local South Africans that their jobs are being taken away may well be true,” she said.

Judge Pillay said there was a responsibility to look after the employment and housing rights of South Africans. She further said that our Constitution gave rights to everyone who was in the country. The first call should be for law enforcement to protect people, whoever they were, she said.

“People who are here, who are undocumented or who are here irregularly, also have rights. It is firstly the right to life and the right to safety.”

Judge Pillay feared the retaliation by some countries in Africa could spread to other countries.

“They are hurt and angry as they see that South Africans are not protecting their nationals in this country. We are treating them very badly, exposing them to violence and insecurities,” said Judge Pillay.

She said that some of these countries would quite justifiably say that they protected South Africans who fled apartheid violence.

“They gave them sanctuary, and we owe it to them to protect their nationals here,” said Judge Pillay.

She said we needed to educate ourselves to be much more sensitive to the people who came to our country, who had been forced out by circumstance.

“Very few people choose to leave their country, they are forced to leave. For instance, they have economic reasons. They are starving in their own countries and they are working very hard to send money back to their families,” she said.

She added that the government should implement the policies that they had adopted.

“They should implement these policies to protect migrants to have legitimate means to open up platforms so they can enter their country regularly and so that they can be documented,” said Judge Pillay.

The SA Institute of Race Relations (IRR) said mob violence in Gauteng highlighted once again the consequences of governance and economic failures. Terence Corrigan, an IRR project manager, noted that senior figures in leadership positions at municipal, provincial and national levels had made reckless comments that could stir hostility.

“The IRR cautions against ascribing the ongoing violence solely to xenophobia. Rather, what is at play is a toxic brew of frustration caused by unmet socio-economic aspirations, rising unemployment, grinding poverty and failing service provision.”

The IRR said South Africa was at risk of a repeat of the 2008 xenophobia crisis.

Professor Jannie Rossouw of the Wits School of Economics cautioned that the situation was bad for the economy.

“It will negatively affect countries using South Africa as the gateway to Africa. They could easily re-route their imports. It will also make it difficult for negotiations on the new African Free Trade agreement,” he said.

He said it would also impede economic activity in South Africa.

“People will not trade because they will be afraid to travel,” said Rossouw.

He added that President Cyril Ramaphosa needed to show clear leadership and that the police needed to do their jobs.

“This is bad for South Africa because the rest of Africa is now pushing back. If we want to position ourselves as the investment gateway into Africa we cannot have bad relationships with our brothers and sisters in other African countries,” he said.

Professor Daryl Glaser, an associate professor of politics at Wits University, said xenophobia was damaging the political reputation of South Africa.

“African countries have seen that we have failed to deal with the problem and are in denial that there’s a strong xenophobic element to the problem,” said Glaser.

“The local leaders and ordinary people who harbour prejudices, the police who harass and extort money from foreigners and the government who do not know what to do and need to exercise leadership,” he said.

Yasmin Rajah, the director of Refugee Social Services, said foreigners were stressed and traumatised.

“We work with refugees and asylum seekers who have fled conflict, and these attacks often result in severe trauma and flashbacks,” said Rajah.

Meanwhile, the Shoprite Group said several stores in South Africa, Nigeria and Zambia were unable to open yesterday due to protest action and extensive damage done to several supermarkets.

The MTN Group has confirmed that over the last day four of its outlets in Nigeria had been subjected to attacks.

MultiChoice also condemned all forms of discrimination.

The Mercury

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