Some looters have targeted small businesses owned by foreign nationals, says coalition
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Pretoria – Small businesses, particularly informal trading stalls and spaza shops operated by immigrants in South Africa have been targeted during the looting and vandalism that has rocked the Gauteng and KwaZulu Natal provinces for nearly a week, the C-19 People’s Coalition said on Thursday.
“We note that the marginalised and vulnerable suffer most when accountable politics is in short supply; thus we raise the alarm about the targeting of spaza shops and street hawkers’ stalls owned by non-locals, indicating a strong xenophobic element in the melee,” said Danmore Chuma, a coordinator at the umbrella body of activist groups.
“The violence must be halted via a political response prioritising the safety, rights and accessing of basic needs for all. We are calling on all just people to hold government to account to act with political effectiveness prioritising the human rights of all.”
Chuma said South Africa was home to multiple foreign nationals, many fleeing repression in their home countries, who had sought refuge in the continent’s economic powerhouse “only to experience the double backlash against the poor, fuelled by our unaccountable state”.
“The South African government to date constantly fails to implement proper integration to support non-local South Africans - refugees, asylum seekers, immigrant workers and the poor - and to build cohesion within local communities,” he said.
“The crisis of ever deepening inequality in the republic has fostered competition over scarce resources in communities, fuelling xenophobic tensions, often by politicians, as is happening now.”
He accused the government of consistently refusing to label the targeting of non-locals as xenophobia or to acknowledge its own attitude as xenophobic.
“We ask: why are trucks driven by non-locals, non-local shops and mosques for that matter, noting the equally serious ethnic racist trend in the unrest, targeted being denied full description by government as xenophobic violence?” he said.
As tensions remained high in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng after a wave of looting and rioting sparked off by protests against former president Jacob Zuma’s incarceration for contempt of court last week, the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has called up all reserve members.
This comes after Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula ordered that 25 000 troops hit the ground in the two provinces to quell the violence.
A circular sent out by SANDF called on all reserve troops to report for duty at first light on Thursday at their respective units.
African News Agency (ANA)