The South African Institute of Race Relations (IRR) is of the view that political leaders and all South Africans must urgently take a firm public stand against xenophobia and reject the racial nationalism that sponsors it.
This after a spate of attacks on foreign nationals in Durban took place last week.
The flare-ups took place in the suburbs of Kenville and Seacow Lake in the north of Durban and Sydenham and Overport, just outside the city centre. Police had initially said that two people were killed in the violence, but this was later denied.
Locals attacked the Malawians at Burnwood informal settlement in the Sydenham area last week Tuesday, after accusing them of stealing. They then beat some of the foreigners and looted foreign-owned shops, setting several alight, according to eyewitnesses.
Over 100 Malawian nationals ended up at the Sydenham Police Station, seeking sanctuary.
The day before, in the Seacow Lake area, angry locals blocked Inanda Road in the industrial area of the city. The protests led to the death of a local woman who was employed at the China City mall. She had climbed onto the roof of the mall to escape the hostile protestors and fell to her death.
The IRR said the latest outbreak of xenophobic attacks in Durban “is very serious and every effort must be made to prevent it from getting out of hand, as happened in 2008 at such tragic cost”.
“There can be little doubt that the events of recent days reflect the mounting desperation of people both in South Africa and elsewhere in southern Africa who are bearing the brunt of the consequences of the absence of reform and the continuing reckless flirtation with racial nationalism by politicians across the spectrum,” the IRR said in a statement.
“The governing ANC’s continuing commitment to counterproductive policy that is hostile to investment, economic growth and job creation is the primary source of declining socio-economic conditions that provide fertile ground for resentment and frustration. The same is true, for example, of Zanu-PF in Zimbabwe, where stalled reform has led to grave economic difficulties and rising anger,” the institute added.
The IRR said the risks of such frustration leading to acts of violent xenophobia as well as the rapid reproduction of fake news purporting to show violent attacks, only increase tensions and create an atmosphere of heightened racial nationalism that encourages the scapegoating of sections of society.
“Ultimately, the solution lies in repealing race-based legislation, securing property rights, and deregulating the labour market to position South Africa as an investment-friendly economy capable of lifting growth, creating jobs and guaranteeing its future as a free, open and prosperous society for all.”
(Compiled by Makhosandile Zulu)