- Thirteen people have been killed and two burnt (including one
NRI) in South Africa's city of Johannesburg since Friday in a
wave of attacks against immigrants
- Targeted mostly Zimbabweans and Mozambicans, the biggest groups
among immigrants who are accused by the poor of taking jobs and
fuelling the high rate of violent crime.
back home' messages to immigrants in Africa
Johannesburg, May 23, 2008
After burnt alive of NRI photographer Kiten Singh,
NRIs are still uncertain whether the cause was linked to xenophobic
events. Many NRIs and NRI shopowners in Actonville, Johannesburg
are living in terror. More than 42 people have been killed and
more than 25,000 foreigners have been displaced by the violence,
most of it targeting Zimbabweans, Malawians, Mozambicans and other
foreigners living alongside South Africans in squatter camps.
On May 24, in New Delhi, Vayalar Ravi, NRI Affairs
Minister announced to media that the Indian Embassy in South Africa
had been unable to get in touch with Indians who are missing"
but was trying its level best through non-government sources.
The Indian government has expressed concern over the recent xenophobic
attacks on foreigners.
Tovi, a local resident of South African said:
- South Aricans are upset with foreigners, they are chasing
- The government promised them jobs but hasn't done anything.
- The government can't provide us jobs if there are people here
who come here illegally.
- We have to clean up first, and then we can get jobs... We
may target Indians and Pakistanis in future - some were born
in South Africa, but some are foreigners. They must go."
Aid groups in the Johannesburg area said as many as 13,000 people
had been displaced by the violence, most of it targeting Zimbabweans,
Malawians, Mozambicans and other foreigners living alongside South
Africans in squatter camps.
Hundreds of Zimbabweans and other foreigners fled their homes
in Alexandra, a teeming crime-ridden township, to escape xenophobic
attacks. Some hid in the nearby bush or in police compounds.
"They were saying, 'Go back to Zimbabwe, we don't want to
see you here, you're taking our jobs. They took everything, saying,
'You didn't get this from Mugabe; this is our property.' "...
NRI Sudesh Patel said South Africa seems to be a country with
very unusual human beings, you meet a white guy he is racist you
meet a black guy he has a gun under his shirt. Historic tension,
discrimination and hatred between blacks and whites, now an illegal-undocumented-alien
The trouble began a week ago in the sprawling township of Alexandra.
Immigrants from neighbouring African countries were set upon by
men with guns and iron bars chanting "kick the foreigners
The South African Red Cross is now providing food and blankets
to hundreds of frightened immigrants forced from their homes.
President Thabo Mbeki said he would set up a panel of experts
to investigate the violence. The leader of the governing African
National Congress, Jacob Zuma, condemned the attacks.
"We cannot allow South Africa to be famous for xenophobia,"
he told a conference in Pretoria.
allegedly burnt alive by a mob in Johannesburg, Africa
Johannesburg, May 22, 2008
NRI Kiten Singh, 55, photographer allegedly burnt alive by a mob.
At least 15 people have been murdered in orchestrated attacks by
groups of South Africans against immigrants in poor townships around
Johannesburg. The victims are mainly Zimbabwean immigrants. The
crowd of over 100 residents of a hostel that is home to local workers
also set his house on fire.
The mob (killers) had taken the time to spray the walls and doors
with paint and daub images of unhappy faces on the walls of the
house. They had also been daubed onto Kiten's car, which was parked
outside the house.
Lalbahadur Singh, bother of Kiten said, "The family did not
understand why he had been targeted. It was impossible for anyone
to mistake him for a foreigner as he grew up here and was well-known
in the area. His brother also did not have any foreigners working
for him, which could have been a reason for the attack on him after
threats to attack such businesses."
The xenophobia that prompted these attacks permeates society. This
despite the fact that South Africa's powerhouse industries - gold
mining and the manufacturing sectors of its industrial heartland
of Johannesburg - were built on migrant labour, much of it from
neighbouring countries, with populations that also paid a heavy
prize for their governments' and people's support of the anti-apartheid
struggle. They hosted political exiles and endured bombings, assassinations
and military aggressions.
Violence against immigrants, like some windswept fire, spread across
one neighborhood after another here in one of South Africa's main
cities this weekend.
Shops and businesses — many of them owned by Zimbabweans,
Somalis and Pakistanis — have been looted. Many victims are
legal residents with all the proper immigration documents. Some
are being assaulted by neighbors they have known for years. However
genuine the rage against immigrants, criminals have also made crafty
use of the opportunity.
The police said they arrested more than 200 people over the weekend.
The army joined police officers to conduct three dawn raids in Johannesburg.
Guns, ammunition and drugs were seized and 28 arrests made.
This latest outbreak of xenophobia began a week ago in the historic
township of Alexandra and has since spread to other areas in and
around Johannesburg, including Cleveland, Diepsloot, Hilbrow, Tembisa,
Primrose, Ivory Park and Thokoza.
Amid so much violence, the police were spread thin, sending in
squads of officers in armored vehicles. "We are using all available
resources and will call in reinforcements if the need arises,"
a police spokesman, Govindswamy Mariemuthoo, told reporters.
President Thabo Mbeki said Sunday that he would set up a panel
of experts to investigate the causes of the violence. Jacob Zuma,
the president of the governing African National Congress and the
man presumed to succeed Mbeki next year, called the attacks on foreigners
a matter of national shame.
"We should be the last people to have this problem of having
a negative attitude towards our brothers and sisters who come from
outside," Zuma said.
Newspaper editorials have called the outbursts a matter of using
immigrants as scapegoats for South Africa's problems. The official
unemployment rate is 23 percent. Food prices have risen sharply.
The crime rate is among the highest in the world.
And yet South Africa, with the most prosperous economy in the region,
is a magnet that draws a continuing stream of job seekers from Malawi,
Mozambique and elsewhere. An estimated three million Zimbabweans
have sought refuge in their neighbor to the south, many of them
fleeing here in recent months as Zimbabwe's economy has utterly
collapsed and political violence has intensified.
What’s behind the murder and violence against immigrants?
News reports quote the attackers as saying:
- The immigrants are "job stealers."
- Mobs of South Africans shout: "Who are you? Where are you
from?" as they maraud through the narrow streets they share
with immigrants. They order people from their homes, steal their
belongings and put padlocks on the houses.
According to africa files: although it does not justify the immediate
cause for the violence of the last week but it is the desperation
of sections of the poor black South Africans living in subhuman
conditions. South Africa remains the most unequal country in the
world. As polling firm Markinor (using very optimistic measures)
reported earlier this month, in an increasingly youthful population
(78% black), only 42 of every 100 South Africans have a job, 49%
are poor (with monthly household income below R2,400 or £1,700),
13% are HIV positive, 24% of homes have no electricity, 32 % no
tap water, 69% no hot water supply, and R21 (£1.4)of every
R100 (£6.8) they earn, they spend on food.
Most of these people have consistently voted for the African National
Congress of Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki, and next year they will
probably make Jacob Zuma South Africa's next president. What they
have witnessed under an ANC government, however, is how a small
elite have enriched themselves, how whites have actually benefited
from freedom and how the majority still lives in poverty with high
rates of violence and illness. However, as Zwelinzima Vavi, leader
of the country's largest trade union federation, COSATU, noted this
week, the poor and desperate are not about to revolt, but instead
will turn against foreigners.
Thousands of panicked foreigners- many of them Zimbabweans who
have fled their own country's economic collapse- have now deserted
their ramshackle dwellings and tin-walled squatter hovels to take
refuge in churches and police stations.
This is a modern, industrialised country, with one of the world's
most progressive constitutions, that prides itself on inclusivity.
South Africans champion such concepts as the "rainbow nation"
and "the world in one country", and despite much resistance,
held a much-heralded truth and reconciliation commission.
Most South Africans don't have passports and rarely travel into
the rest of the continent. Of those who travel, mostly whites, they
go to Europe (which they culturally identify with), Australasia
and North America. The education system, even after apartheid, has
not done much to improve this state of affairs. It's a hard fact
to come to terms with, but Thabo Mbeki's African Renaissance failed
largely because it did not connect to the country's black majority.
In the same way, while laudable, the recent solidarity action by
Durban dockworkers and truckers to unload and then transport guns
to the Zimbabwean regime, is an exception.