It has been a sad day for South Africa as over 2,000 people brought Durban’s CBD to a standstill following days of xenophobic attacks in the KwaZulu Natal province.
The recent flare up of attacks against foreign nationals has been blamed by some on a recent comment made by King Goodwill Zwelithini, King of the Zulus, saying “foreigners must go”. He claims his comment was distorted.
Additional law enforcement officers were deployed in KZN today to deal with the horrific attacks which have left at least five dead and thousands displaced in Durban townships.
The manner of the attacks has also left much of the country and continent shocked with headlines like one in Nigeria that stated “South Africans are Killing Foreigners”.
It is foreigners from Nigeria, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and other African countries – which once took South Africans in during the apartheid years – who are being targeted in the attacks. Many of these attacks have reached worldwide attention with graphic videos being shared on social media of victims being stoned and burnt alive.
Since the King uttered his words, shops belonging to foreign nationals have been looted and burnt down, and police have reported some roads blockaded with burning tyres and stones.
Today an angry crowd gathered in Durban’s CBD where Dr Pixley KaSeme Street (West Street) was closed after a stand-off between Pakistani shop owners and locals. Shop owners barricaded their shops to prevent looters and the scene escalated to cars and shops being stoned. (See the video below of events earlier today.)
At SAPeople, we received messages from around Africa pleading with South Africans to stop the attacks. In one Ed Qimli from Uganda said “this is not right, it should stop” and in another Hardy Phiri from Malawi simply said “Stop Xenophobia”.
Messages on Twitter in the last few hours included the following that sum up the feelings and emotions of people in South Africa and Africa:
Our National Anthem says God Bless Africa, why are we cursing her now? Self Hate? At 21 is this what freedom means? #Xenophobia #WeAreAfrica
Xenophobia is disgusting … In fact, as a South African … I feel embarrassed …
Ms Sexwale responded with:
So sad, so embarrassing, so wrong. #Xenophobia
#Xenophobia Foreign nationals refusing to disperse. “All countries have foreigners. They don’t fight them,” says one woman in Durban.
There should be no victimisation because some South Africans are married to foreign nationals. Love is love.
This is NOT #Xenophobia, it’s #UrbanTerrorism. Decisive action MUST be taken to halt it before full-scale war breaks out.
When you don’t have dreams and aspirations, your actions bare testimony to that fact. #Xenophobia #IthoughtIshouldPutItOutThere
Mabine Seabe II
Why hasn’t King Zwelithini been arrested for the #Xenophobia happening in KZN?
The most dangerous Militant groups in Africa are Boko Haram, Al Shabaab and South Africans. #Xenophobia
#Xenophobia Earlier foreign nationals could be seen waving pangas & sticks in the air. They set up barricades to protect themselves.
The South African Government’s Response…
The Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula told media this morning that “thus far, at least 48 suspects have been apprehended since the past weekend.”
The recent violence started in Isipingo and has since spread to Chatsworth, Umlazi and other parts of Durban after locals said the foreign nationals should go back to their home countries.
The Minister said these attacks “must be condemned in the strongest possible terms by all South Africans.”
She said South Africa’s Constitution protects the rights of all people living within the country, including foreign nationals.
She said government would do everything within the law to ensure the safety of all citizens and foreign nationals, irrespective of their status.
“President Jacob Zuma has assigned the Ministers of Home Affairs Malusi Gigaba, Police Nathi Nhleko and State Security David Mahlobo to work with the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government to arrest the violence that has broken out in some Durban residential areas.
“The KwaZulu-Natal provincial government has established an Inter-Departmental Task Team to coordinate the response,” Minister Mapisa-Nqakula said.
A provincial JOINTS Priority Committee has also been activated to coordinate government departments in responding to these incidents of violence against foreign nationals in the province of KwaZulu-Natal.
“All district disaster management centres have been placed on high alert and a 24-hour call centre has been established,” Minister Mapisa-Nqakula said.
She said shelters have been set up to accommodate displaced foreign nationals and basic amenities such as water, sanitation and healthcare.
Government is also working closely with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) as well as non-government organisations to provide food, psycho-social and other support to those affected.
“As South Africans, we should refuse to be part of the attacks on innocent people, merely because they happen to be foreigners.
“Those who are in the country illegally should be reported to the police and they will be returned to their countries of origin in a lawful manner,” Minister Mapisa-Nqakula said.
She said government will take action against South Africans who attack foreign nationals and all foreign nationals who commit crime in the country.
“The process of reintegrating those who were displaced back into their communities has begun. Community engagements are being conducted through the communities in dialogue programmes, community safety forums, ward committees and through community development workers,” Minister Mapisa-Nqakula said.
(Some reporting from SANews.gov.za.)
Watch Video – Scenes earlier today in Durban’s CBD following recent #xenophobia
Police Officers have since managed to disperse the crowds and things are calm at the moment with a few scatttered but smaller groups still in the CBD.
In 2008 xenophobic attacks resulted in 41 foreign nationals being killed.