The commission had just conducted a fact-finding mission in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, amid volence in the area that has left hundreds of foreigners displaced.
“We call on leaders to identify this for what it is. From what we have seen, we call this xenophobic, especially because those that are attacked are from African countries,” spokesperson Isaac Mangena said.
“You don’t get Indian [South Africans] being attacked. These are not South African shops.”
Police Minister Nathi Nhleko said yesterday the issue surrounding the spate of violence which has left five people dead was complex.
Using the word “Afrophobia” during a justice, crime prevention and security cluster briefing, Nhleko said it was difficult to see it as just xenophobia.
“You don’t see Australians being chased on the streets, Britons being chased on the streets and similar demands being placed on them that they should leave the country and so on,” said Nhleko.
“What you effectively see is largely Africans against one another, in a sense. It represents a certain type of political problem that has got to be dealt with by ourselves as South Africans.”
There was an “ideological” problem, he added, pointing to criminal elements that looted businesses.
However, Mangena said the “criminality” revealed a bigger picture that needed to be looked at.
“There are deeper issues that need to be addressed. There is an issue about resources – there is an issue about the fight in the business space and poverty.
“But that should not draw us away from the issue – the issue here is that this is xenophobia. It is not the issue of looting.”
SAHRC chairperson Lawrence Mushwana led the delegation to Chatsworth, Greenwood Park and Isipingo, where displaced foreigners were being housed in tents.
“The situation is really sad, inhumane,” said Mangena.
“You have sickly children and women who really need serious care.
“I witnessed an ambulance fetching two children suffering from diarrhoea. Most of them are forced to be out of school. That is how bad it is.”
The SAHRC called for “serious dialogue by political leaders” to chart the way forward.