/ 17 May 2008

Xenophobic attacks spread in Gauteng

One man has been shot dead and two injured in Tembisa, where the latest xenophobic attacks have occurred, police said on Saturday as a protest march in central Johannesburg drew attention to the week’s violence that has already gripped Alexandra and Diepsloot in Gauteng.

Spokesperson Captain Manyadza Ralidhivha said scores of Tembisa residents went on a rampage in the early hours of Saturday morning, destroying property belonging to foreign nationals.

He said at least 15 shacks were burnt down in Kanana, Tembisa.

Ralidhivha, who could be heard shouting orders, said he was deploying more police officers on Saturday afternoon to respond to reports of disturbances.

He said foreigners were still “trickling into” Rabie Ridge police station in Tembisa to seek protection.

In Thokoza on the East Rand, six people were arrested on Friday night for public violence, police said. Spokesman Captain Mega Ndobe said two shacks had been burnt down and a number of people were injured in the incident.

He said at least 50 foreigners had sought refuge at Thokoza police station, but that relative calm had been restored to the area by Saturday afternoon.

Meanwhile, the situation in Diepsloot continued to be “tense and uncontrollable”, police said on Saturday.

Captain Louise Reed said extensions one and six were still volatile, with residents setting alight uncollected garbage in the streets. “The residents are starting fires in the street and lighting up the garbage that has not been collected,” she said.

Meanwhile, the chairperson of the Community Policing Forum, Samuel Seale, said foreigners continued to flee from Diepsloot on Friday night as residents took to the street and burnt foreigners’ household goods and clothes.

However, he said the situation on Saturday morning appeared calm but he feared tensions would rise when people return from taverns in the afternoon.

Protest march

Socialist organisations said in Johannesburg on Saturday that South Africa’s working class is turning its anger against immigrants instead of the “true enemy”, the capitalists.

The organisations, attending a march organised by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), agreed that foreigners and South Africans should unite against the problems of underdevelopment.

About 200 people had joined Cosatu and other left-wing organisations at the Library Gardens in the Johannesburg CBD to protest against recent xenophobic attacks in Gauteng, the situation in Zimbabwe and soaring food prices.

Holding Cosatu banners saying “Africans united”, protesters sang struggle songs and listened to speeches.

South African National Civics Organisation president Mlungisi Hlongwane said: “The issue of xenophobia should end and it should end now.” He called for “man-made boundaries” of countries to be “demolished” to ensure all Africans free movement through the countries.

“Let us unite,” he said. “African people should understand that we are all brothers and sisters.”

The Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front (ZACF) handed out pamphlets saying a divided working class would win nothing but more than exploitation and oppression. Referring to the “crisis” of housing in South Africa, the ZACF said: “A battle between South Africans and immigrants over who gets the houses will only prolong the crisis.”

The organisation Keep Left blamed the government for underdevelopment, saying it has been slow to meet its promises. “If government had kept their promises to deliver houses and jobs, then no one would be fighting over this.”

Keep Left said the government should have set an example “long ago” about treating immigrants as “brothers and sisters”, adding: “They were not loud enough condemning police attacks on immigrants in the Johannesburg Central Methodist church.”


The organisations Spartacist, a section of the international communist league, expressed a different opinion on South Africa’s underdevelopment issues.

While most organisations present at the march supported Cosatu, Spartacist characterised the union federation as “pro-capitalist misleaders” and the ANC as “bourgeois”.

“It is the ANC, SACP, Cosatu tripartite alliance government that overseas neo-apartheid capitalism under which the overwhelming majority are locked in grinding poverty and black people remain at the bottom,” it said in a pamphlet.

Spartacist said ANC president Jacob Zuma has cloaked the crackdown on immigrants with “empty words of sympathy”, while police are regularly showing xenophobia themselves, encouraging mob attacks such as those in Alexandra this past week.

The ZACF also said police are “no friends of immigrants”, referring to the Central Methodist church crackdown earlier this year, in which Zimbabwean refugees who had taken shelter at the church were arrested. Police were accused of brutality at the time.

“[The police] is the force of repression that randomly takes people of the streets … checking for ID [identity] books and papers as they checked passes under the old regime,” the organisation said.

The marchers left the Library Gardens heading for the Checkers supermarket at about noon to hand over a memorandum expressing concern about high food prices.

From there they were expected to march to the Department of Home Affairs office to hand over another memorandum supporting freedom and democracy in Zimbabwe.