By Mashudu Netsianda
South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa has condemned xenophobic attacks in his country with his government offering to meet African ambassadors to discuss the matter following last week’s attacks in Durban, KwaZulu Natal (KZN) province.
Speaking at the ANC KZN Fundraising Dinner on Friday, President Ramaphosa said:
“The attack on foreign nationals for whatever reason is a form of intolerance that the people of this country have rejected many times before and must do so again and again and again. . .
These recent attacks are wrong, they violate everything that our people fought for over many decades. As for me, I condemn them in the strongest terms, because this is not us.”
He called on South Africans to be tolerant and be open to living side by side with people from other nations, because “we cannot be defined as being intolerant.”
In a statement, International Relations and Cooperation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu expressed serious concern over the current spate of violence against foreigners and damage to their properties in KwaZulu-Natal.
She called for an urgent meeting of African ambassadors to discuss the matter.
Minister Sisulu urged law enforcement officers to deal with criminals and those damaging properties. She said that Africa as a continent contributed and sacrificed a lot for South Africans to be liberated from apartheid.
“South African companies and our citizens are welcomed and loved across the continent: here at home, we should do the same, we must embrace our neighbours and fellow Africans. South Africa has been supported by all African countries and many countries in the world to have a non-permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council; it is currently the Vice Chairperson of the AU and the Chair of AU in 2020. These responsibilities require that we must welcome and lead in building bridges between nations, particularly in SADC and the continent,” she said.
“All of us must stand up and send a strong message that violence, all criminal activities and looting of properties of foreign nationals will not be tolerated, and the police and other law-enforcement agencies must act without fear or favour.”
This comes after graphic videos and images circulated on social media last week showing foreigners being attacked. Police had to intervene in the affected areas of Kenville, Inanda Road and Sea Cow Lake in Durban.
More than 100 foreigners, among them Zimbabweans, were forced to flee their homes and seek refuge at Sydenham Police Station.
A Zimbabwean truck driver Mr Tineyi Takawira was also caught up in the xenophobic attacks and had to be hospitalised.
The first violence broke out in the Kenville area, north of Durban last Sunday at about 11PM when mobs of protesters burst into the homes of foreign nationals, moving door-to-door and seizing belongings, from beds and TV sets to pots and baskets, before targeting foreign-operated shops.
The protesters, numbering about 100, blocked Sea Cow Lake and Inanda roads using rubble from burnt tyres. According to South African media reports, it is believed that the unemployed informal settlement residents were angry that foreign nationals were employed by local companies.
Two of the victims were shot by a foreign tuck shop owner who opened fire on the mob, which was looting his shop. Two suspects aged 22 and 28 years have been arrested for public violence and have since appeared at the Durban magistrates’ court.
A Zimbabwean couple and its two children have also been killed in Cape Town in violence likely linked to xenophobia too.
They were burnt to death while three other children, among them a 10 month-old baby, are battling for their lives in hospital in Cape Town after their shack caught fire in a suspected arson attack.
The incident occurred last Saturday at an informal settlement in Mbekweni area of Cape Town in the Western Cape Province.
It is alleged that Mr Maxwell Mazungunye’s rented shack was petrol-bombed by his landlord’s son who is now reportedly at large after allegedly committing the gruesome offence.
The family was sleeping in its zinc and wood makeshift structure at around 1AM when fire engulfed the structure.
Mr Mazungunye (40), his wife Margaret Vare (27) and their two children Miriam (19) and Tadiwanashe (6) from Sanyati in Mashonaland West Province died on the spot.
The other three children Vanessa (17) and Tatenda (6) are admitted to Paarl Hospital while their 10 month old sibling Michaela, the worst affected, is at Red Cross Children’s Hospital’s intensive care unit.
Maxwell’s sister, Ms Rosemary Mazungunye said the four bodies were taken to a local mortuary pending forensic investigations.
“We are waiting for police to finish their forensic investigations before the bodies are repatriated to Zimbabwe on Tuesday (tomorrow). We are also appealing for assistance so that we are able to meet the costs of repatriating the bodies for burial in their rural home in Sanyati. The deaths are overwhelming and obviously never planned for hence we are saying those wishing to assist us can contact me on (0027) 611097894 or my brother on (0027) 730478196,” she said.
Ms Mazungunye said the three victims who survived the inferno sustained life threatening burns with the 10 month old set to undergo graft surgery involving the transplantation of the skin.
In 2017, another Zimbabwean man, his wife and their two children, were among 10 people who died after thousands of shacks caught fire at another informal settlement in Cape Town.
Vusumuzi Nsimba (48), originally of Entumbane suburb in Bulawayo died together with his family when their shack in Wesbank, caught fire.
The Durban attacks come just after the South African government launched a national action plan to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and ethnic intolerance.
That country’s Justice and Constitutional Development Deputy Minister John Jeffery launched the plan at the St George Hotel in Irene during an event attended by civil society organisations and government officials.
The document was approved by Cabinet last month and will be revised every five years.
The latest attacks evoked ugly memories of the deadly xenophobic attacks of 2015 which displaced hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans and other African immigrants living in South Africa, following alleged inflammatory remarks by Zulu king, Goodwill Zwelithini, who had called for the expulsion of foreigners. The Chronicle