The burning of 32 trucks near Mooi River over the weekend – apparently because they were driven by foreigners – is an indication that the SA government does not do enough to help migrants living in the country, says the African Diaspora Forum (ADF).
The violent protest began on Saturday when protesters threw stones and set the trucks alight, causing the closure of the N3 highway as police dispersed people looting the burning trucks. Police said 54 people were arrested and are expected to appear in court today on charges of public violence.
Several reports say the violence was xenophobic and started when the foreign truck drivers were accused of taking jobs from locals.
ADF spokesperson Marc Gbaffou said migrants pay the ultimate price for lack of service delivery. What happened in Mooi River was a reflection of sentiments that South Africans are not happy with jobs being given to migrants.
He said government did not do enough to protect migrants by giving them legal documentation to live in the country. For that reason, many South Africans saw migrants as illegal immigrants who illegally took jobs that “rightfully belong to locals”.
“The SA government should be consistent. When they sent task teams to other countries asking for investments, and those countries see that migrants are not welcomed, the message is ‘invest in our country but don’t come live with us’,” said Gbaffou.
“If government provides them with proper documentation, they will be free to move on with their lives as opposed to being locked up with no documentation and being treated badly by locals.
“As Africans, we should stand together and talk about issues, and not attack one another.”
Department of transport spokesperson Ishmael Mnisi said they could not confirm that the protest was xenophobic but if it were true, there would be processes that the department of labour would have to take to solve the issue.
Thembeka Mbele of the KwaZulu-Natal Police confirmed that after 24 hours of closure, the clearing up of the N3 was completed and it was open for traffic.
Law enforcement officers would continue to monitor the situation.