The Justice and Peace Commission on Tuesday called for “calm and restraint” ahead of a planned march against foreign nationals supposedly involved in illicit drug dealing, prostitution and other crimes.
South African residents of Tshwane have organised a march for Friday against foreign nationals alleging, that they are employed ahead of locals, involved in hijacking of buildings, prostitution and drug dealing.
Several houses in Tshwane thought to be brothels and drug dens have been set alight by protesting residents, prompting the police to deploy more members in affected areas. No arrests have been reported yet.
Mamelodi Concerned Residents spokesperson Makgoka Lekganyane said residents organised the march because they were tired of being slaves in their own country. Shops owned by foreign nationals in the area have been looted.
Reacting to the planned march Bishop Gabuza, the chairperson of Justice and Peace Commission, called for calm and restraint amid fears the move could spark xenophobic attacks.
“The planned march against the foreigners in Pretoria is cause for serious concern. We call for calm and restraint,” said Gabuza.
The bishop also condemned the ongoing violence and destruction of property of foreigners in Pretoria West and in Rosettenville.
He said communities should explore avenues to raise their concerns against foreign nationals instead of resorting to violence.
“We cannot stress it enough that, even in cases of extreme dissatisfaction with the law enforcement and alleged criminal elements perpetrated by some foreign nationals, community members should not take the law into their hands,” said Gabuza.
“No grievance justifies the violence against foreign nationals.”
The bishop urged the African diaspora forum, which represents foreign nationals in South Africa, to work actively and closely with the police to root out criminals, especially those involved in drugs and prostitution.
“We reiterate our call to the government to strengthen border controls,” said Gabuza, adding: “We also call on the intelligence community to devise more effective ways to detect and counter xenophobic violence before it flares up. Detection mechanisms must be strengthened with respect to xenophobic attacks.”
Gabuza said in the context of slow economic growth and increased economic inequalities in South Africa, there is also a need to address the fierce competition for limited resources, public services and economic opportunities between foreigners and the unemployed poor in South Africa.
“If this is not comprehensively addressed, especially in townships and informal settlements, it will continue to generate an environment that increases the risk of xenophobic attacks.”