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‘SA Govt must deal with Xenophobia’

Zimbabweans domiciled in South Africa have urged the government in that country to come up with lasting solutions to the Xenophobic attacks targeted at foreign nationals.

The latest wave of attacks left at least 12 people dead, while many sustained injuries while property and shops belonging to foreigners were destroyed and looted.

Hundreds were also arrested after mobs attacked foreign-owned shops in Johannesburg and Pretoria.

“It would be imprudent to sit down and think that this is over. For many years this has occurred, and people forget and live on until they are caught up in the same mess again and in the last few years it has been more frequent and brutal,” said Dr Vusumuzi Sibanda, chairperson of the Africa Diaspora Forum (ADF), an organisation that is focused on migrants rights.

Dr Sibanda said the government should take full responsibility and not place blame on criminality when the attacks were directed on foreigners.

“Interestingly the President (Cyril Ramaphosa) has sent an envoy of three persons to assure strategic countries about the safety and the calm in the country and apparently to apologise. Obviously non-strategic countries can have their nationals killed it matters not. We know it’s easy to point a finger and difficult to bring solutions,” he noted.

To escape xenophobia, hundreds of foreign nationals were repatriated from South Africa to their respective home countries including Zimbabweans.

Ramaphosa has also sent a special envoy of South African government officials to different countries in Africa to initiate peace talks and apologise for the recent acts of violence.

He was also forced to make an apology after Zimbabweans booed him at the state funeral service of the late former president, Robert Mugabe in Harare on Saturday.

Standing before other heads of state and dignitaries, the South African president apologised and expressed regret over the attacks.

Dr Sibanda highlighted that migrants are not campaigning for political space or criticising authorities but were aggrieved by the narrative, particularly from government.

“We wonder what the envoy sent by the president is for especially when even in his speech he never acknowledged that the attacks were on foreign nationals. Is the government apologising for crime in the country? That’s the first. One wonders whose responsibility is it to deal with criminals in the country.

“The level of government disinformation about the level of damage on the migrant community is appalling to the extent of only claiming 12 deaths and claiming that only two of those are migrants,” Dr Sibanda argued.

He added that xenophobia would not be eradicated until its existence was acknowledged.

“This denial is not helping the situation. We are of the view that the aggrieved South Africans, no matter how small the number, who have been attacking migrants should have been engaged.

“A process of dialoguing initiated to facilitate an understanding and a better way of dealing with all issues raised before this massacre took place. The government needs to deal decisively with people taking the law into their own hands and self-help in this regard,” he said.

Dr Sibanda claimed the victims of xenophobia had not been reached out to yet the government was more focused on doing a public relations job.

“In our view the government should be on the ground engaging, helping, protecting the vulnerable, and building bridges. It is better than investing in an outside process when the inside remains sombre. We still have people sheltered in halls that are unideal for human habitation, but the government is worried about how other countries view South Africa,” he said. 

He alleged it was also worrying that not a single person was arrested for the murder of migrants since 2008, none for arson on property and businesses yet quite a few were arrested for the murder of South Africans.

“Most of those who were arrested were taking for a lesser crime of looting yet the architects of the violence, murders, destruction of businesses and property, still roam the streets planning their next attack yet the government has moved on,” Dr Sibanda noted.

He said everyone had a role to play and needed authorities in the country, to provide direction.

“But it is distressing to see the nonchalant approach and even the disregard of the plight of the affected and victims. The government should be taking full accountability of all the chaos but in fact, it is placing the blame on criminality. We are shell-shocked, bewildered and at a loss for the appropriate reaction to all this,” said Dr Sibanda.

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