Security cluster probing messages inciting xenophobic violence

Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba’s spokesperson Mayihlome Tshwete said the State Security Cluster is investigating messages circulating on social media, claiming that foreign nationals have been given several dates to leave townships and CBDs or they will come under attack.

Speaking to the Mail & Guardian, Tshwete said the messages have caused panic. 

“In some areas people leave and they displace themselves because of what is being said. The messages have had a huge impact on foreign nationals and that has created fear.”  Over the past weeks, attacks on foreign nationals have been escalating in different parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Johannesburg. 

Addressing reporters in Pretoria on Sunday, Gigaba issued a warning to perpetrators of xenophobic violence. He stated that they would face the full might of the law.

“We want to issue a stern warning to those who lend themselves to acts of public violence. We will find you and you will be dealt with to the full might of the law.”  Gigaba said more than 300 people have been arrested in relation to ongoing attacks on foreign nationals and looting. 

False rumours
Gigaba said government is aware of false rumours spreading on social media platforms warning of attacks on foreign nationals. “They have been sending out fictitious SMS and WhatsApp messages with fictitious and photoshopped images warning people of imminent attacks.” 

Gigaba condemned the messages and said some people are taking advantage of the attacks on foreign nationals. 

Last week an Ethiopian street vendor in central Johannesburg told News24 that he received SMSes and WhatsApp messages warning that he and his countrymen faced attack. 

“It seems that there are attacks planned for Johannesburg on Wednesday: CBD, Hillbrow, Berea and Yeoville. [On] Wednesday, Zulu people are coming to town starting from Market [street] their mission is to kill every foreigner on the road please pass this to all your contacts in case they come people should be on alert [sic],” it reads.  

He said shop owners had opened their businesses in the morning, but after seeing people running up and down the streets they began closing again.

In a twist, State Security Minister David Mahlobo’s spokesperson Brian Dube, said: “It’s difficult to say at this stage (if there are specific investigations into social media instigation) because the National Joint Operations Centre (Natjoc) has been tasked with investigating all these issues. Natjoc will consider complaints and decide if they should be investigated, and will consider which national department the issue should be referred to.” 

Dube said it was possible that some investigations might be referred back to the State Security Agency if Natjoc decided that SSA should assist in the investigation. 

Despite the negative impact of false messages doing rounds, social media exepert, Brian Mawdsley says most social media users have managed to unite against xenophobia. 

“We have seen different hashtags being used as a sign against xenophobia. They have been effective and many people are adding their voices.  I think 99% of South Africans are opposed to xenophobia.” Different marches are expected to take place this week against xenophobic attacks. – Additional reporting by

PW Botha wagged his finger and banned us in 1988 but we stood firm. We built a reputation for fearless journalism, then, and now. Through these last 35 years, the Mail & Guardian has always been on the right side of history.

These days, we are on the trail of the merry band of corporates and politicians robbing South Africa of its own potential.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.


Police use sjamboks and rubber bullets to enforce Hillbrow lockdown

In one of South Africa’s most densely populated suburbs, the national lockdown is being implemented with force

Border walls don’t stop viruses, but a blanket amnesty might

Why South Africa should consider amnesty for undocumented migrants in the time of the coronavirus outbreak.

The rule of law in times of crisis: Covid-19 and...

Under a state of national disaster, some rights may be suspended. But it is critical to remember that the Constitution itself is not suspended

Test backlog skews SA’s corona stats

With thousands of samples still waiting to be processed, labs are racing to ramp up testing to help the government gain a better idea of how prevalent Covid-19 really is

Press Releases

The online value of executive education in a Covid-19 world

Executive education courses further develop the skills of leaders in the workplace

Sisa Ntshona urges everyone to stay home, and consider travelling later

Sisa Ntshona has urged everyone to limit their movements in line with government’s request

SAB Zenzele’s special AGM postponed until further notice

An arrangement has been announced for shareholders and retailers to receive a 77.5% cash payout

20th Edition of the National Teaching Awards

Teachers are seldom recognised but they are indispensable to the country's education system

Awards affirm the vital work that teachers do

Government is committed to empowering South Africa’s teachers with skills, knowledge and techniques for a changing world

SAB Zenzele special AGM rescheduled to March 25 2020

New voting arrangements are being made to safeguard the health of shareholders

Dimension Data launches Saturday School in PE

The Gauteng Saturday School has produced a number of success stories