“As a young opposition party leader in Zimbabwe, I’m deeply concerned about the security of Zimbabwean lives and property in South Africa as fresh xenophobic attacks take centre stage during this tough season when our people in the dispersion are already suffering from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. I must say, Africa shall be no place for xenophobia. We see the Put South Africa First Movement, the first organized group to openly say that solving South Africa’s unemployment, crime, and social problems must include sending non-nationals back to their countries, as cause for alarm,” said Maxwell Teedzai, the Founder and President of Emej Zimbabwe (Economic Movement for Equality and Justice), in a Presidential Unity Day press release on the party’s position on the recent upsurge in xenophobic violence and the party’s effort to see Zimbabweans and other foreign nationals in South Africa protected by rule from further violence.
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Emej Zimbabwe President also said, “Weak response from the authorities in South Africa and our Zimbabwe government here is enough reason to suspect them of exercising double standards on the matter and it looks like the violence is benefiting them to gain political mileage. Such negligence and lack of coherent legislative coordinates between the two governments will soon result in the creation of a volatile sub-saharan region and we will all lose in the process, so why not take the necessary steps now and end this civil unrest before it pops-up in a domino effect mode.”
There is need he added to renew our foreign policy so that it does not only focus on trade and investment but also safeguards and promotes the interests and security of Zimbabweans at home and abroad and that where litigation is necessary our government must even sue the SA government and raise matters of gross human rights abuses at the African Union and the United Nations – we don’t eat diplomacy and where necessary we ought to always put Zimbabweans lives ahead of diplomacy.
South African authorities are taking their time in acknowledging that the violence is motivated by xenophobia, preferring to classify it as crime driven. A year and a half ago, the government adopted a plan to fight xenophobia. So far, it seems to have borne little fruit.
“We’re sick and tired of these liberation movements that brought forth our freedom from colonialism. They’re just not competent enough to rule us. They promote violence, they promote chaos, only so that they can continue to loot our resources while causing millions to slip into shackles of deep poverty. I therefore urge the Put South Africa First Movement to further investigate the matter and retrospect; digging deeper to find the real cause of economic downturn in South Africa. The naked truth is the SA government is using such movements to buy time and extend its unpopular clinging to power. Even if foreigners were to get out TODAY, that wouldn’t change a a single thing.
However, such an ambitious trend by South Africans is virtually impossible. They must learn to live with foreigners because we’re one family, we’re brothers and sisters together. The help we want from South Africa NOW, is support to bring political change in foreign nationals’ countrys,” read part of the statement.
Ambiguous statements by some politicians are seen as fueling hatred against foreigners. A recent report by the non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused law enforcement officials of being complicit in the violence, often operating in “discriminatory” and “abusive ways” towards non-nationals.
Taking to the social platform Twitter, Nigerian Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama vented his anger at the attacks which also targeted Nigerians living in South Africa. “Received sickening and depressing news of continued burning and looting of Nigerian shops and premises in South Africa by mindless criminals with ineffective police protection,” he wrote. “Enough is enough.” Without getting into details, Onyeama said that Abuja would take “definitive measures.”
“We call upon the government of Zimbabwe to act fast and ensure that Zimbabweans in the dispersion are protected by legislation and policy. Government must immediately engage SA and bring to end this inhuman and demonic behaviour by some South Africans who are short-sighted and unaware that Zimbabwe and the rest of the region offer their country market for their trade. Let’s find non-violent ways to address this. South Africans must learn from us Zimbabweans who live in harmony with foreign nationals and refugees.”
“The pandemic exacerbated an already dire economic situation, tempting many to use foreigners as scapegoats,” said Frans Viljoen, Director at the Human Rights Centre at the University of Pretoria.
The Southern state has long been a magnet for economic migrants searching for better job prospects in the region. The country attracts people not only from neighboring Lesotho, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe, but also Congo, Ethiopia, Malawi, Nigeria, and South Asia. The county’s last population census, in 2011, counted more than 2.2 million Zimbabwean foreigners.
South Africa has a history of violence against foreigners. Xenophobic attacks left at least 62 people dead in 2008. Seven others were killed in 2015.
Violence flared again in September last year when armed mobs attacked foreign-owned businesses in Johannesburg. The clashes left at least 12 people dead.
“I think what causes all these
xenophobic attacks is the divide between blacks and whites in South Africa which has remained unreconciled since the days of apartheid,” concluded Teedzai.
Emej Zimbabwe is a new political party seeking equal sharing of the national cake and calling for an immediate end to a socio-economic system that favours a few while impoverishing many.