WASHINGTON DC —
South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) says xenophobic attacks in that country are a barbaric and shameful act targeting defenseless foreigners.
ANC communications manager, Keith Khoza, told Studio 7 on Wednesday that some of the targeted foreigners come from countries that helped South Africans in fighting against the colonial apartheid regime.
“The problem of xenophobia in our country is a variety of sources. If you trace each incident, you find a different slant to the story. For instance, they have been accusations that people from outside of South Africa have taken businesses over from South Africans, in some instances the issues of crime blamed on foreigners and so on."
He said South Africans must work with foreigners in order to learn a lot from them if they do better in business.
Khoza said the nation should not blame the high crime rate or all crimes on foreigners, adding that such issues should be dealt with by the police.
He bemoaned the xenophobic attacks saying Africans fought hand in glove with South Africans to dismantle apartheid in that country.
“At the height of our struggle we were received with warm hands in countries like Tanzania, Zambia. We operated from Mozambique, we operated from Lesotho, we operated from Botswana and some people were trained in countries like Nigeria and so on. So, we received a lot of support from the international community that made it possible for us to attain our liberation.
“And that is why today we find it strange that South Africans will have a problem with foreigners as if we have never been in such a situation before.”
He urged all South Africans to respect foreigners and stop the xenophobic attacks.
Khoza’s party said in a statement regardless of the cause of "these barbaric deeds, the African National Congress regards them as criminal acts against vulnerable and defenseless people who have sought refuge, solace and economic prosperity in our country."
The ANC said the nation must condemn the xenophobic attacks in the strongest possible terms.
“As we celebrate 21 years of freedom this month, we do so knowing that this freedom should be shared and owned by the peoples of Africa as whole; many of whom come from countries who were nothing but friends to the South African people during our dark days of apartheid brutality. These unpardonable attacks against them are a shameful assault on our very humanity.”
The ANC said as South Africans, the far vast majority of whom are deeply rooted in values of humanity, solidarity and brotherhood, they are now forced to once again hang their heads in shame in the face of “these misguided and misplaced assaults.”
It said the very real challenges faced by the South African people of poverty, unemployment and underdevelopment cannot be blamed on people of foreign nationality. “We are aware of the concerns raised by small business owners in particular as it relates to what they perceive to be the negative consequences of the presence of immigrants in their communities.”
The ANC further said attacking African compatriots will not resolve the problem. “Long before the influx of people from other parts of Africa into South Africa, our country has battled with an unequal society as a legacy of our exclusionary and racist past. Immigrants are not the enemy. Their suffering too is as a result of our continent`s shared legacy of a colonial and apartheid past.”
MANDELA FOUNDATION REACTS
At the same time, the Nelson Mandela and Ahmed Kathrada Foundations have strongly condemned the spate of attacks in KwaZulu-Natal against those perceived to be foreigners.
The foundations said in a statement that this is the latest manifestation of a phenomenon which has been troubling South Africa for a long time.
“We welcome the intervention by our president and other senior leaders and call on all levels of leadership to address the challenge as a priority. For too long South Africans in leadership positions have either ignored the crisis or stoked the fires of hatred.
“We call on all South Africans to take responsibility for embracing the hospitality that defines our democratic order and to work together to find solutions to a problem which is destroying lives and bringing South Africa shame internationally. We urge South Africans in the lead-up to Africa Day (May 25) to pledge to eradicate xenophobia. Only in this way can we truly commemorate the founding date of the Organisation of African Unity – later the African Union.”
The foundations noted that xenophobia is an expression of a terrible failure of memory by South Africans. “We are forgetting the long years of struggle against ethnic and related forms of identity mobilisation. We are forgetting the support given by the peoples of the African continent to the struggle against apartheid.
“And we are forgetting the legacies of liberation stalwarts like Nelson Mandela and Ahmed Kathrada. In 1995 Nelson Mandela addressed a gathering in Alexandra and said: “During the years I lived here, the people of Alexandra ignored tribal and ethnic distinctions. Instead of being Xhosas, or Sothos, or Zulus, or Shangaans, we were Alexandrans. We were one people, and we undermined the distinctions that the apartheid government tried so hard to impose. It saddens and angers me to see the rising hatred of foreigners.”
The foundations said more recently, at Nelson Mandela’s funeral, Ahmed Kathrada said: “It is up to the present and next generations to take up the cudgels where you (Mandela) have left off. It is up to them, through service to deepen our democracy; entrench and defend our Constitution; eradicate poverty; eliminate inequality; fight corruption, and serve always with compassion, respect, integrity and tolerance. Above all, they must build our nation and break down the barriers that still divide us. Xenophobia, racism and sexism must be fought with tenacity, wisdom and enlightenment. Anything that defines someone else as ‘the other’, has to go. Tolerance and understanding must flourish and grow.”