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Xenophobic violence in South Africa

A call for a more tolerant, united and accountable Africa

The pictures, testimonials and videos circulating globally on print, written and social media of violence in South Africa are horrifying and extremely disturbing. The attacks and counter attacks amongst fellow Africans is most regrettable and unfortunate; it is against the ethos and values of Ubuntu which define Africans and African relationships. It is noted that xenophobic or “Afrophobia” violence has remained a recurrent feature in South Africa, targeting migrants under the pretext that migrants are competing with South Africans for jobs and government services. According to the Migration Data Portal run by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), in 2017, South Africa was home to four million immigrants. This estimate is based on the work of the Population Division of the UN's Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA).

The compromised socio-economic situations in the majority of African countries continues to be a major factor fuelling the emigration of highly skilled and low-skilled nationals; and South Africa due to its unique geographical position within Sub Saharan Africa is a major destination for economic migrants from other parts of the continent, for example the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Nigeria, Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe in search of work. With more than 1.6 million immigrants settling in South Africa, this has caused tensions in the receiving communities, culminating in physical violence directed against foreigners and their property. The presenting tensions are however a manifestation of unresolved past conflicts, unaddressed inequalities, unmet expectations and long seated cultures of violence and oppression which ultimately result in cyclic trauma.

Our Recommendations

  • Governments in the region should take decisive action towards addressing their socio-economic fundamentals; such as the promotion of sustainable livelihoods, access to economic opportunities, redress of socio-economic inequalities, protection of all peoples including immigrants living in South Africa and elsewhere on the continent, strengthening human security, and upholding of the rule of law.

  • Peaceful engagement should be prioritized as a conflict resolution mechanism. Violence never begets peace, the necessary condition for development.

  • A coordinated approach is urgently required across the region to promote tolerance, social cohesion and ensure sustainable peace.

  • Governments in the region should continue to partner with civil society organizations towards the effective addressing of emerging needs and aspirations of migrant populations; and in the promotion of conducive policy frameworks.

  • There is need for the prioritization of funding to Truth and Reconciliation Commissions (1996) to facilitate trauma healing for citizens on an ongoing basis as the majority of African countries are coming from a wounded past.

  • Most countries in Africa are signatories to international and regional instruments and policies including the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, adopted by the World Conference on Human Rights in June 1993, the resolutions of World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (Durban 2001), and other bilateral agreements, for the regulation and management of migration and protection of the rights of migrants, and are therefore encouraged to uphold the dictates of these agreements and policies.

  • There is a great need for the region to harmonize migration policies and to facilitate free movement of people across the continent due to the increase in movement of people across geographical boundaries as stated in AU Migration Policy Framework for Africa (MPFA), which was adopted in Banjul, the Gambia, in 2006 and the current Migration Policy Framework for Africa and Plan of Action (2018 – 2030).

  • Governments are encouraged to have policies that support and protect both skilled and non-skilled migrants.

  • We encourage all countries in Africa to embrace a shared security approach to problem solving through the realization that their collective security is interdependent.

  • We also encourage all political actors to be responsible and promote a narrative which builds and doesn’t tear down or divide.

  • We call all actors to value the sanctity and dignity of human life through the realization that there is that of God in every person.

  • The future of Africa is dependent on Africa’s collective vision, determination and action for the well-being, peace and security of its own people within the continent as espoused in the values of our African Agenda 2063.

  • We call for an end to xenophobic attacks in South Africa and an end to retaliatory attacks targeting South African interests in other parts of Africa.

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