Xenophobic attacks still scare foreigners in SA

By Staff Reporter

Amnesty international has observed that xenophobic attacks in South Africa still scare migrants.

10 years ago, horrific xenophobic violence claimed 60 lives in South Africa, a situation that has led to continued discrimination against foreigners living in the country.

On May 11, 2008, a Mozambican national, Ernesto Alfabeto Nhamuaye, was beaten, stabbed and set alight in a brutal killing which set off a chain of violent attacks against migrants and refugees in South Africa.

“The violence that spread across South Africa in 2008 should have been a wake-up call for the government, underscoring the catastrophic consequences of its failure to root out hatred against refugees and migrants. But 10 years on, refugees and migrants still feel the echoes of that terrifying period,” Shenilla Mohamed, Executive Director of Amnesty International South Africa, said.

“Ongoing xenophobia in South Africa is compounded by the failed criminal justice system, with many cases remaining unresolved, which allows perpetrators to attack refugees and migrants with impunity. There has been a marked failure to bring those responsible for the 2008 attacks to justice, emboldening future attackers and leaving refuges and migrants in a constant state of fear.”

Since 2008 there have been numerous outbreaks of violence against refugees and migrants in South Africa.

On June 7, 2014, violence erupted in Mamelodi, a township northeast of Pretoria, resulting in attacks on shops owned by people of Somali origin in and around the township over a period of six days, costing lives and livelihoods.

Amnesty International noted police’s failure to respond to the attacks at the time.

And in April 2015 another Mozambican national, Emmanuel Sithole, was stabbed to death in Alexander township in Johannesburg.

His murder was captured by South Africa’s SundayTimes photographer, James Oatway, who happened to be in the township at the time.

In the same month, widespread attacks against refugees, migrants and their businesses were recorded in Durban, Kwa-Zulu Natal.

At least four people were killed while many others were seriously injured, shops looted and more than 1, 000 people displaced in the province.

And on 24 February 2017, residents of Pretoria took to the streets protesting against high inequality, poverty and unemployment, which they blamed on refugees and migrants.

The protests were accompanied by confrontations and violence.

In some cases, xenophobia has been fueled by the hate-filled rhetoric of South African authorities.

For example, in December 2016, the Executive Mayor of City of Johannesburg Herman Mashaba labelled foreign nationals living in Johannesburg ‘criminals’ who had hijacked the city.

He blamed them for the high levels of crime in the city.

Amnesty International is calling for thorough investigations into all outstanding xenophobia-related cases, with access to reparation for all the victims who have suffered discrimination and attacks.

The perpetrators must be brought to justice in order to break the cycle of violence.