/ 13 May 2008

Xenophobic attacks an ‘assault on democracy’

Xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals in Alexandra, north of Johannesburg, are against the freedom and democracy that was fought for in South Africa, political organisations on Tuesday.

African National Congress (ANC) spokesperson Tiyani Rikhotso said: ”Such acts can only take society backwards and open the wounds of racism and intolerance against which so many of our people fought.

”The killings in Atteridgeville earlier this year and recent attacks on Somalis and others are an attack not only on foreigners, but are an assault on the values of our democratic society.”

He said the ANC repeats its call to all state institutions and security agencies to apply the country’s immigration laws in a consistent and even-handed manner.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) urged the Johannesburg metropolitan council to provide shelter for those who lost their homes or could not return home for fear of attack.

”We also urge the Department of Home Affairs to do more to assist immigrants,” said Cosatu Gauteng provincial secretary Siphiwe Mgcina.

He said that the underlying cause of xenophobia is the intolerable levels of poverty, unemployment and crime, and the shortage of housing in poor communities.

”People’s frustration is understandable, but there can be no excuse for placing the blame for these problems on immigrants who have been forced to flee from even worse conditions in other parts of Africa, especially Zimbabwe.

”The poor working-class South African and immigrant people have a common interest in fighting to improve their conditions, and fighting each other will only make the problems even worse,” Mgcina said.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) applauded the arrest of 87 people in Alexandra.

Chairperson of the DA caucus for Johannesburg Vasco da Gama commented on the incidents that he witnessed on the ground in the last 48 hours in Alexandra.

He said: ”The community of Alex are grateful for the strong action taken by police in arresting 87 people involved in rioting and looting. It is unfortunate that this has not been enough to prevent three murders, widespread damage, theft and allegations of rape.”

He said that the government needs to act urgently to get to the root of the problem.

”It must deal with the causes of xenophobia, both in terms of improving service delivery and creating an economic climate that creates job opportunities.

”It is also clear that people are angry that the government cannot control immigration,” he said.

The Young Communist League (YCL) said that the xenophobic attacks undermine international struggles and solidarity, which are a cornerstone of ”our hard-won freedom and democracy”.

”We believe these actions have no credence and role in our society. We further believe that foreign nationals should not be viewed and treated as inferior beings, but as equal human beings that need to be treated with respect and dignity,” said spokesperson Castro Ngobese.” — Sapa