Southern Times Writer
Civil society organisations in the SADC region have condemned the xenophobic attacks in South Africa and called upon the government in that country to take urgent action to stop the violence.
In a statement, the SADC Council of NGOs said the violence in South Africa was a matter of grave concern for that country, the SADC region and Africa as a whole.
It said the wave of attacks against people perceived as “foreign” were not isolated actions by a few criminal elements.
“It is undeniable that a prevailing atmosphere of racist anti-African xenophobia has arisen in South Africa. It is a matter of great alarm that political parties in South Africa, without exception, have pandered to narrow, vulgar and distorted nationalism which is not only legitimising prejudice and bias but feeds the cycle of hate and racism,” said SADC Council of NGOs.
“It is also apparent that poor South Africans are suffering greatly from a lack of dignity, human rights and opportunities for self-development. The structural inequalities in South Africa exacerbate the psychosis of violence which society has not addressed in the more than 20 years since the transition to majority rule.
“The deep and systemic violence produced by apartheid and colonialism has not been adequately addressed by the democratic government. The everyday violence experienced by the majority of people living in South Africa – violence against women, children and men; structural racism and sexism; homophobia and attacks on lesbians and transgendered persons – and the violence of poverty and social exclusion are clearly inextricably linked and contributes to the scapegoating of Africans for the ills and woes of the poor.”
The regional civil societies organization said the “semi-orchestrated nature” of the wave of attacks was a further alarming development, indicating an increasing level of targeting of non-nationals.
It said the South African body politic, stakeholders and government “must end the denialism of the racist xenophobia that is being expressed through this violence and recognise that far from being sporadic, isolated acts of criminality, these are indeed organised acts of violence born of hatred”.
“The continued violence in South Africa is a matter of grave concern for all Africans and must be placed urgently on the agenda of SADC to assist the government of the Republic of South Africa to intervene in this situation,” it said.
“The SADC Ministerial Committee of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Affairs must be seized with the violence gripping South Africa and urgently convene itself to receive a through report from the Government of the Republic of South Africa, and agree on necessary support and assistance to be provided to SADC and African citizens and peoples within its borders. We call on the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania and the Government of Zimbabwe to take the necessary leadership within SADC to ensure a speedy response is put in place.”