‘Revenge’ no excuse for xenophobic attacks

Staff Writer | Aug 17, 2019
Gauteng Premier David Makhura said ‘criminals’ who looted foreign-owned shops under the guise of avenging attacks on the police must be arrested.

Makhura’s statement coincided with an official government statement saying ‘South Africa is governed by laws and will not tolerate anarchy’.

The acting director-general of the Government Communication and Information Service, Phumla Williams said: ‘There can be no reason that justifies breaking the laws of our country. Every citizen and foreign national must be aware that government will not allow lawlessness, criminality and violent crimes. Government is committed to ensuring that all within South African borders are and feel safe.’

She said: ‘Government would like to thank all those community members in Soweto who stood up against the looting and protected the victims.’

In his statement, Makhura said: ‘We condemn in the strongest possible terms these acts of criminality. The criminals who looted foreign-owned shops under a disguise of revenging (sic) the police must be arrested. The police are in a business of fighting crime irrespective of the motive’ (sic).

This was a reference to reports that, as News24 put it, ‘police fled the Johannesburg city centre on August 1 after rocks were thrown at them as they tried to conduct raids in search of counterfeit goods’.

In the same report, however, the Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (Cormsa) expressed concern about the response of government officials to outbreaks of xenophobic violence, reportedly saying officials ‘only seemed to act when incidents happened and later disappeared without providing any social cohesion programmes to avoid tensions from being reignited’.

The IRR warned earlier this year that xenophobic tensions ‘reflect the mounting desperation of people both in South Africa and elsewhere in southern Africa who are bearing the brunt of the consequences of the absence of reform, and the continuing reckless flirtation with racial nationalism by politicians across the spectrum’.

The IRR pointed out that the African National Congress's 'continuing commitment to counterproductive policy that is hostile to investment, economic growth and job creation is the primary source of declining socio-economic conditions that provide fertile ground for resentment and frustration'.

‘The risks of such frustration leading to acts of violent xenophobia,' the IRR added, 'are all the greater in an atmosphere of heightened racial nationalism that encourages the scapegoating of sections of society.’


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