IJR Media Statement
21 February 2017
The Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR) strongly condemns the “March Against Immigrants” planned for 24th February 2017, and the recent outbreak of Afrophobic violence across South Africa. Between 2008 and 2016, South Africa witnessed unprecedented levels of violence against foreign nationals which resulted in the loss of lives, the destruction of property and an overall collapse of trust within communities across the country.
In South Africa, we experience a very specific kind of xenophobia, targeted at African foreign nationals, which can be attributed to South Africa’s long history of apartheid and racism. Afrophobia is as a result of centuries of colonial oppression, the legacy of imposed borders and internalised racism among black people. It is also as a result of competition over resources and employment opportunities which results in misplaced anger towards foreign nationals, instead of the racially-based economic system that brought about these disparities. Afrophobia undermines the ideology of Pan-Africanism, which speaks to a united Africa and an Africa without borders, it is this spirit of Pan-Africanism that animated and mobilised the decolonisation process in the mid-20th century, which contributed to South Africa’s liberation from apartheid. It is also important to recognise the particular kind of xenophobia experienced by Muslim foreign nationals which contributes to compounded experiences of violence and fuels growing Islamophobic sentiments globally.
IJR would like to appeal to the South African Government, and provincial administrations, which have a Constitutional obligation to protect the human dignity and safety of asylum seekers, refugees, economic migrants and all those living in South Africa. We call upon the authorities to remain vigilant, with regards to the planned events of Friday 24th February 2017, and to prevent a repeat of xenophobic violence. Government should take the necessary steps to protect foreign nationals and also initiate interventionist measures aimed at fostering understanding of the conditions that often lead foreign nationals to seek refuge in South Africa, in the same way that South African exiles sought refuge across the continent in the brutal days of apartheid.
In addition, government and members of society should protect those who become particularly vulnerable in times of violence, including women, girl children and members of the LGBTQIA+ community who experience compounded and intersecting violations. Sexual assault is often used as a tool of violence which is specifically targeted at vulnerable members of society and it is in times of increased conflict that sexual violence is used as a weapon of domination. Children often become displaced and orphaned during these times of crisis and upheaval and therefore there is a need for greater protection during this time.
There is an urgent need for the South African government to address the systemic inefficiencies that lead to xenophobic violence. Community leaders and government officials should avoid using inflammatory xenophobic language which further fuels xenophobic attitudes. We are calling on all South African citizens to assist by familiarising themselves with the contact details of their local councillor(s) to report incidents of violence that they witness. We also urge South Africans to practice the spirit of Ubuntu and Pan-Africanism in fostering cohesion and unity in our country and across our beloved the continent.