Not in our name: Religious leaders plan march to end xenophobia

Xenophobic attacks against foreign nationals are continuing in KwaZulu-Natal. Religious leaders are planning a march this week in Durban to help end the violence. (David Harrison, MG)

Xenophobic attacks against foreign nationals are continuing in KwaZulu-Natal. Religious leaders are planning a march this week in Durban to help end the violence. (David Harrison, MG)

Religious and political leaders are planning a peace march to the Durban City Hall in a bid to stop attacks between foreign nationals, police and residents of the city, a spokesperson for the KwaZulu-Natal government said on Tuesday.

“On Thursday there will be a march led by various sectors by government from Curries Fountain as a stand against xenophobia, as an expression of commitment to ending this kind of violence and to protecting lives,” said Thami Ngwenya.

Meanwhile, EWN reported that foreign nationals have armed themselves in anticipation of further attacks. No further attacks were reported overnight. Gift of the Givers Foundation has opened a refugee camp outside Durban to accommodate foreigners who have fled the area.  

President Jacob Zuma’s son, Edward, who is being investigated by the South African Human Rights Commission for xenophobic remarks, yesterday condemned the attacks.  But he remained unapologetic for his earlier remarks.  

Zuma told News24: “I am not going to stop telling the truth. The government must stop running away from addressing this issue because these people are expected to go back into their communities and we would have wasted taxpayer’s monies [accommodating them at camps].”

Landless people’s movement, Abahlali mbaseMjondolo, in a statement, noted that an anti-xenophobic march held on April 8 had been broken up by the police. The group questioned the motives behind Thursday’s planned march.  

“Today we are told that the KZN government is organising their own march to be held on the 16th of April. We ask ourselves why now when the march supported by migrant organisations was banned and attacked. We ask ourselves who will be marching? And who will be receiving a Memorandum and from who? We are now clear and ashamed that just as there has been high level political support for attacks on people from the Eastern Cape there is also support for this violence. There are many in the ruling party who would rather have the poor divided than united and would rather have the poor turning against their neighbours instead of their real oppressors. There are also people who have their eyes on the businesses and homes of others.”

‘Return to your countries’
A whatsapp message circulated by a group calling themselves the Patriotic Movement caused a storm on social media on Wednesday. The message pleaded with foreigners to return home. 

“We are pleading with you to return to your home countries - as our King Goodwill and many other great leaders have asked. Go and build up those countries so that we can all live in economic, social and political prosperity and peace - as neighbours. The genocide in this corner of Africa will be far worse than what happened in Rwanda in 1994. Then the entire continent will be condemned to ashes. Is that what you want?” the message said.

Meanwhile, after a day of running battles, Ngwenya said police would be ready to secure the city for workers and commuters on Wednesday and considered the events of the past days as “mostly criminal”. 

Thursday’s march would be led by religious leaders, representatives of various community structures and, said Ngwenya, “those that stand for values of ubuntu, who stand against any forms of violence”.

Bringing shame to SA
Forty six people have been arrested so far, and least five people killed, including a teenager, since the violence flared in Isipingo, outside Durban on Friday. 

By Monday it had spread to  KwaMashu and on Tuesday police played a cat and mouse game with groups who ran around the city banging on the shutters of closed up shops to attract the police, only to run away when police approached. 

On Tuesday in Durban’s CBD, a car was set alight and stun grenades and tear gas canisters were fired. Ngwenya said: “This is bringing shame to our country.” He hoped the theme of the march - “Not in our name” - would help return peace to the city.

On Tuesday, KwaZulu-Natal’s Premier Senzo Mchunu and the Minister of Home Affairs Malusi Gigaba met diplomats from at least 15 African countries to discuss the latest events. 

“The position is that we condemn this and the focus is to end the violence and bring stability and ensure that we get to address these issues,” said Ngwenya. “It basically has a lot of criminal elements. It is the targeted looting of shops owned by foreign nationals. Police have been deployed and are trying to quell the situation.” 

He could not comment immediately on whether there was a backlash starting among foreign nationals, following a stand-off with police in Albert Park, Durban. 

On Tuesday afternoon police and community representatives urged a group of foreign nationals gathered in Albert Park to disperse but they taunted police at first, with a loud countdown, before leaving. The province was also working with organisations such as the Red Cross to provide food and shelter to people who been displaced. 

“They are being given food, and water, and after that their longer term accommodation needs and reintegration will be assessed.” – News24, M&G Reporter.

Sarah Evans

Sarah Evans

Sarah Evans is a Mail & Guardian news reporter.She's a recovering musician who became a journalist while interning for the Diamond Fields Advertiser in Kimberley.She spent three years reporting there before completing an internship at the Mail & Guardian Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane).Her areas of interest include crime, law, governance, and the nexus between business and politics.Her areas of disinterest include skyscrapers.
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