South African Authorities Must Stop ‘Fuelling Xenophobia’ – Amnesty International

Akinola Ajibola  
Updated September 5, 2019
A man kicks a burning piece of furniture during a riot in the Johannesburg suburb of Turffontein on September 2, 2019. Michele Spatari / AFP.



Human rights organisation, Amnesty International has called on South African authorities to urgently address the escalating attacks on Nigerians and other foreigners living in the country.

The Executive Director of the organisation in South Africa, Mr Shenilla Mohamed, made the call while faulting the government’s attitude to the crisis.

Mohamed’s criticism comes amid the series of condemnation that has trailed the xenophobic attacks targetted at Nigerians and citizens of other countries in South Africa.

“South African authorities must stop fuelling xenophobia in their desperate attempt to win political support,” he was quoted as saying in a statement on Wednesday.

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The executive director added, “Rather, they must build a country that is rooted in respect for human rights and the rule of law that protects everyone.

“South African authorities must come up with a security plan to ensure the safety of all refugees and migrants and seek to end these attacks once and for all. That begins with holding suspected perpetrators of past xenophobic crimes to account and breaking this cycle of impunity.”

According to Mohamed, ongoing attacks against refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, as well as looting of foreign-owned shops in South Africa is a direct consequence of years of impunity.

He also blamed it on the failure in the country’s criminal justice system that has left vulnerable group exposed and unprotected.

Convenient Scapegoats?

The executive director noted that five people have been confirmed dead as violence between locals and foreigners continued to escalate in Johannesburg and other parts of South Africa.

He said, “South African authorities cannot say that they didn’t see this rampant violence coming. For many years refugees, asylum seekers and migrants have been targeted for who they are and what they look like.

“They have also served as convenient scapegoats for unscrupulous politicians who have pushed the insidious narrative that foreign nationals have stolen jobs and are to blame for everything that is going wrong in the country.”

Mohamed said the first major outbreak of xenophobic attacks in South Africa witnessed more than 11 years ago resulted in the killing of more than 60 people.

He wondered why such crisis was not seen as a wake-up call for the authorities to root out hatred against refugees and migrants and hold those responsible to account.

“Their lack of action has resulted in the subsequent and recurring attacks we’ve seen,” the executive director decried.

Condemning the recent attacks, he noted that South Africa has been experiencing systematic looting and burning of businesses belonging to foreign nationals, largely in Pretoria and Johannesburg for weeks.

Mohamed insisted that businesses belonging to Nigerians and other foreign nationals have been targeted in the two cities, with stock and possessions worth millions burnt to ashes.

He said the violence dramatically escalated last week following confrontations between locals and foreigners, marked by horrific attacks and killings.

The executive director insisted that the South African government has largely failed to address past xenophobic, violent outbreaks across the country.