Xenophobic tensions rise again

Staff Writer | Sep 09, 2019
Stun grenades and rubber bullets were used in a bid ‘to restrain the growing crowd who attempted to move through (central Johannesburg)’ yesterday, the South African Police Service (SAPS) said.

One news report said the demonstrators, ‘carrying weapons, including knobkerries, sang, "foreigners must go back to where they came from".’

The South African online news platform reported that the streets of Johannesburg’s central business district ‘have been brought to a complete shutdown for the second weekend in a row. The ugly scenes erupted on Sunday afternoon, after attempts to quell the xenophobic tensions between foreign business owners and hostel dwellers fell spectacularly flat.’

It was reported that a portion of the crowd attending a Jeppestown address by former Inkatha Freedom Party leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi – in which he appealed to South Africans to reject xenophobic sentiments – shunned the veteran politician, ‘walking out to march and chant in the street instead’, according to IOL.

One Twitter post said: ‘Buthelezi failed to calm down Xenophobic violence in Jeppe this morning and violence has spread to CBD. They're throwing bricks at WITS/UJ students and they're attacking everyone not just foreigners.’

The South African report said: ‘We’ve been told that church-goers, shoppers and commuters have been warned to avoid the area around the MTN Taxi Rank and Johannesburg CBD, following these latest attacks against foreign-owned businesses. Jeppestown has also been declared as a no-go zone for the rest of the afternoon.’

The report said ‘the community’ had allegedly demanded that police minister Bheki Cele – who postponed a speech in Gauteng yesterday – and President Cyril Ramaphosa ‘address them within 24 hours, and present a coherent plan to deal with the “effects” they claim foreign nationals are having on Johannesburg.’

The South African Police Service said in a statement yesterday it had used stun grenades and rubber bullets were used to disperse the anti-immigration demonstrations.

The statement said: ‘A crowd of about 1 200 hostel residents gathered at Murray Park and shortly into the address by Prince Buthelezi, a splinter group disrupted the address and left before proceedings were concluded. Many shops are currently closed while police remain on high alert to ensure minimum damages and criminality.

‘Incidents of attacks on businesses have since been reported in parts of the CBD where police fired stun grenades and rubber bullets to restrain the growing crowd who attempted to move through the CBD via corner Bree and Twist Streets.”

Last week, the IRR warned that South Africa ran the risk of a repeat of the 2008 xenophobia crisis (which claimed 62 lives).

While calling on the country’s political leadership ‘to measure its conduct and not inflame passions that will ultimately be ruinous for society as a whole’, it emphasised that ‘dealing with violence such as is now plaguing the country’s commercial capital demands that constructive and productive economic policies be put in place to offer the country’s people a place in the economy’.

Above all, it said, the violence ‘highlights once again the consequences of governance and economic failure’.


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