South African Government Officials Fueling Xenophobia

For Immediate Release

The recent xenophobic attacks in KwaZulu Natal Province did not come as a surprise considering the upcoming general elections in May 2019. For the past 2 years, different political authorities both in the ruling and opposition parties have labelled migrants as the main cause of their failure to deliver quality services to the historically disadvantaged communities. We were not surprised that since the Mayor of Johannesburg, Mr. Herman Mashaba, took office he has officially declared that majority of the social ills in Johannesburg are created by ‘illegal migrants’. Early this year Mr. Aaron Motsoaledi, the Minister of Health argued that South Africa must re-evaluate its immigration policy in order to prevent illegal immigrants from entering the country. But he offered no data or evidence to substantiate his claims about immigrants being such a burden on the public healthcare system.

During an interview last year, Congress of the People (COPE) Leader Mr. Mosiuoa Lekota, one of the opposition leaders alluded that if his party formed a coalition government after this year’s general elections, it would push for refugees and illegal immigrants to be placed in camps. Lekota said foreign nationals were being allowed to ‘flood’ the country, adding that they now constituted the majority of the people who occupied buildings in cities like Johannesburg. Such exaggerations from a leader are extremely dangerous since they give credence to the belief that South Africa is overrun by foreigners who are stealing local jobs and putting a strain on services. How can an estimated population of 3 – 4 million migrants overrun a country of almost 54 million inhabitants?

Last year a new political party called African Basic Movement was formed in KwaZulu Natal with the aim of pushing out all the migrants by the end of 2018. Africa Unite and other civil societies were in total shock and challenged the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) for registering such a party that is based on discrimination and hate. During the ANC manifesto launch in January this year, the president of South Africa, Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa vowed to crack down on businesses operating illegally in townships and rural areas. Consequently, after his speech the police started to harass migrant and refugee traders in Mpumalanga Province.

The above political rhetoric paved way for the recent xenophobic attacks in KwaZulu Natal. Despite the government refusing as usual to acknowledge that these attacks were xenophobic but rather acts of criminality. According to IOL News, these recent attacks left four people dead, hundreds of migrants and refuges displaced, and many of theirshops looted. However, as witnessed in the past years there have been no consequences for those behind these attacks. It has become institutionalised for children to believe that killing or looting foreign owned shops is normal.

The common term used by majority of these politicians is ‘illegal migrants’. We wonder how ordinary citizens in these townships can determine the difference between a documented and undocumented migrant. We also need to ask the question what makes them undocumented, when we have many cases where Department of Home Affairs has refused to renew their documents.

Many refugees have lived in the country for more than 20 years but others are still using asylum seeker permits which needs to be renewed after every 3 – 6 months. Some of them have been issued with South African green IDs and passports, but the home affairs has also largely refused to renew their documents. This makes it difficult for these refugees and their families to live a normal life where they can access basic services such as bank accounts, school, travelling etc.

On the other hand, almost all of the white people who came to South Africa as refugees from Eastern Europe 20 years ago are now South African citizens. This shows clearly how xenophobia is institutionalised against African migrants and refugees at the expense of poor South Africans. We the Africa Unite youth, totally condemn the scape goat attitude of our government and politicians towards our fellow African brothers and sisters who just yesterday paid the price for standing against the Apartheid system.


Africa Unite Human Rights Youth Peer Educators
Western Cape
Yonela Msongelwa
074 528 5483
KwaZulu Natal:
Melusi Mahlaba 076 223 3442

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