Uncivilized South African Xenophobic attacks
By Prof. Michelo Hansungule
The only person who made a statement is lowly ranking Gauteng Premier David Makhura who in his state of the province address called on local South Africans to not attack or blame foreigners for South Africa’s problems( http://mg.co.za/article/2017-02-20-gauteng-state-of-the-province-address-what-you-need-to-know). The problem started during the tenure of president Thabo Mbeki. Despite his pan-African sentiments, Mbeki, nevertheless, refrain from openly condemning xenophobia and instead called it criminal attacks (http://www.atlanticphilanthropies.org/app/uploads/2010/07/4_What_happened_c.pdf). This started the impunity that foreigners (African foreigners) experience in South Africa today. Government did not come out to call xenophobia as such and based on that to move swiftly and strongly to punish it. Following 2008 xenophobic attacks, a few people were rounded up but charged with various common law offences as there was and still is no offence of xenophobia. Instead of attacking it head on, both Mbeki and Zuma government play politics with xenophobia refusing to confront local population for fear they will lose votes if they did. Even after a Mozambican national was burned alive in 2008 and several foreigners after that killed in macabre acts of naked violence, government continued to sing and dance with the xenophobic attackers and orchestrators.
Need I go into the history of the ANC and of the liberation struggle in Africa? No, I need not. The problem is so palpably clear for anyone who wants to see and know, it is due to bad governance. Because Africans have not really freely chosen their representatives especially the president, they cannot demand full and effective accountability from these public office holders. If elections are not blatantly rigged, constitutions are changed willy-nilly just to keep power in the hands of the incumbent leader or in his preferred ‘successor’. What does all this mean on xenophobia? Because leaders are not accountable to their people, they concentrate not on issues affecting their people but only on interests affecting them. They run selfish governments whose primary aim is to enrich themselves. They just never think about people and if it ever happens that people benefit, it is coincidental rather than well-orchestrated thoroughly thought out policy.
Every well-meaning African government, the UN, AU and other international organisations should condemn South African government for flirting with xenophobic killers and attackers. Government should be made to realise that this is not how to run government in modern times. The role of government is to protect all those who live in it. This is the philosophy of the 1955 ANC Freedom Charter which is now just a statement on paper.
Michelo Hansungule is a Professor of Law at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, South Africa