Xenophobia on par with apartheid - Tutu
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Cape Town - The US Embassy and the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation have joined the South African government and other civil society leaders in condemning the xenophobic attacks taking place in KwaZulu-Natal and other parts of South Africa.
“The US government has long recognised the challenges posed by an influx of migrants and refugees throughout southern Africa and provides various forms of assistance in South Africa,” said Patrick H Gaspard, US ambassador to South Africa. “As an immigrant to my own country, my heart goes out to those who have been attacked for being different.”
The attacks which started in Durban about a week ago have spread to Pietermaritzburg and Joburg.
The Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy foundation said, in a statement, that the rainbow nation that “filled the world with hope is being reduced to a grubby shadow of itself” due to the attacks, which the foundation called a gross display of callousness.
Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu recalled the cries of those who testified at the Truth and Reconciliation (TRC) hearings as women, children, the poor and elderly are being attacked by South Africans.
“The reason for the commission shining a light on the past was precisely to contribute to the processes of national healing and ensuring that we never committed such foul deeds again.
“Yet here we are, less than a generation later, witnessing hate crimes on par with the worst that apartheid could offer.”
Tutu said he would pray for the perpetrators of the violence so “their eyes may be opened and they see the fault of their ways”.
Professor Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, a Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation board member who served on the Human Right Violations Committee of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, described xenophobia in South Africa as a “toxic mix of the unfinished business of post-apartheid healing - social, psychological and economic”.
“While the state should take credit for the houses it had built, and the water and electricity connections made, the gap between rich and poor citizens has widened and the national reconciliation imperative of the past has been de-prioritised.
“The crawling state of the economy is driving citizens to desperation.”
The chairman of the Black Business Executive Circle, Hlengani Mathebula, said the voice of business needed to be heard condemning the acts of violence and hate perpetuated against African brothers and sisters.
“Working with our neighbours and partners on the continent, South Africa prides itself on its contribution to enhancing Africa’s global competitiveness, for the benefit of all Africans.
“Many South African businesses have thrived within the continent, in the retail, telecoms, FMCG, mining, construction, oil and gas sectors among others, under the umbrella of African unity with relationships that are mutually beneficial.
“We should be enraged by these actions of the few who masquerade in public as representing the ‘voice of South Africans’.
“Let us show leadership and call upon all peace loving South Africans to stand up and be heard in saying, ‘not in our name’.”
The president of the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Janine Myburgh, said the challenge of xenophobic violence was an ongoing problem that would not be resolved until the root causes had been dealt with.
“There are things we need to do and can do to avoid the kind of violence and looting we have seen, but we also need to get to the root causes.
“We need to talk to the African Union, to the European Union and the United Nations.”
She added that xenophobia was a bigger problem and not one South Africa could solve on its own.
The chairwoman of the African Union Commission, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, has described the attacks of foreign nationals as “unacceptable” and called for an immediate end to the attacks.
“Whatever the challenges we may be facing, no circumstances justify attacks on people, whether foreigners or locals. It is unacceptable.”
The commission welcomed the interventions from the South African government and Dlamini-Zuma appealed for dialogue to address the matter and find peaceful solutions.
Meanwhile, students, who picketed outside Parliament on Thursday in protest over the attacks, claim police allegedly attacked them.
The students said they were part of the Rhodes Must Fall movement and were calling for “Afrophobia to fall”.
Ru Slayen claimed that one of their members had to be sent to hospital as a result of stun grenades used by the police on the group. “We were singing peacefully and holding our banner and the cops said we have to be some distance from the gate and they pushed us away and they were being unnecessarily physical.”
Police spokesman Captain FC van Wyk said officers at the scene used one stun grenade to disperse the crowd.
“We can confirm the incident and police used a stun grenade to disperse the crowd as their march was illegal; they also became violent when they were being removed.”
Van Wyk said there were no arrests and no injuries reported, despite Slayen saying that one of their members was sent to hospital for a burst eardrum.