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Actstrongly on Xenophobic violence


This is disquieting because, if left unchecked, they have the potential to quickly spiral out of control and result in awful consequences

RESIDENTS of Pretoria West blocked several roads yesterday accusing foreigners of bringing crime to the area. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)

REPORTS of attacks on foreigners and their properties in parts of the country are extremely disconcerting.

Over the past week or so there have been growing numbers of attacks and looting of shops belonging to non-South Africans, particularly in KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo.

This is disquieting because, if left unchecked, they have the potential to quickly spiral out of control and result in awful consequences.

We saw in 2008 how quickly – and dangerously – the situation can get out of control. It started on May 11, 2008, in Alexandra, and swiftly spread to mainly Durban and Cape Town.

People deemed non-South African were attacked, their shops and properties set alight. The toll was horrifying: more than 60 dead, hundreds more wounded, 342 shops looted; 213 burnt down. Seven years later, in 2015, unrest in Joburg and Durban claimed seven lives as immigrants were again hunted down and attacked.

There’s no gainsaying that South Africa, as the continent’s most industrialised country with the second highest GDP, draws thousands of foreigners. They descend on our shores seeking refuge from poverty, war and persecution in their home countries. Many others come to escape economic woes.

South Africa was a signatory to the UN and Organisation of African Unity Conventions on Refugees in 1994. As a responsible country, we are obliged to honour these commitments.

And as a society that subscribes to the principles of ubuntu/botho, it is our duty to treat everyone in our midst with respect and humanity.

We believe the criminals who commit these dreadful acts don’t do so on behalf of all South Africans, and they must face the full might of the law.

Xenophobia damages the good reputation South Africa is striving to uphold on the continent and globally.

We acknowledged that perceptions on migration are complex and need to be treated with circumspection.

But the state first needs to restore faith in immigration control. Then we must spread awareness and the right information about the positive impact of immigration. We must not forget the valuable skills that many immigrants bring to our shores, and the jobs some create for locals.

South Africa – or any country – is not an island. We must send a strong message that violence, all criminal activities and looting of properties of foreigners will not be tolerated.