- The government did little to hold the perpetrators of the attacks accountable.
- Five million Zimbabweans and more than 3,000 from other countries in the southern region of Africa live in the country.
- In September 2019, xenophobic attacks resulted in the vandalization of foreign-owned stores and homes.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has denounced xenophobic attacks against Africans and Asians in South Africa and has condemned the South African government’s inaction to stop them. The condemnation comes a year after the adoption of a government action plan to combat attacks against foreigners.
Through a report, video and witness account article released on Thursday in Johannesburg, the human rights NGO claims that the Pretoria Executive, since it adopted its action plan against xenophobia in March 2019, did little to hold the perpetrators of the attacks accountable, and to put in place measures to halt any future attacks.
In the 64-page report entitled ‘They Have Robbed Me of My Life’: Xenophobic Violence Against Non-Nationals in South Africa,” Human Right Watch argues that the perpetrators of the xenophobic attacks are the population, the police, and government officials.
“Non-South African nationals have suffered wave after wave of xenophobic violence and live in constant fear of being targeted solely for not being South African,” said Kristi Ueda, Africa division fellow at Human Rights Watch and author of the report.
“The South African government should hold those responsible accountable to the fullest extent of the law. Impunity only emboldens others and perpetuates xenophobia,” she added.
Foreigners are used as scapegoats and accused of causing economic insecurity and crimes, and they are even accused of the government’s mistakes in accessing basic services. They are targeted at a national scale through protests characterized by popular violence, looting, and destruction of their businesses.
This is what happened to an immigrant from the Democratic Republic of Congo, heard in the HRW report:
“I was selling clothes on the street when nine South Africans carrying sjamboks and sticks came. They were beating people, shouting ‘You foreigners, go home! We don’t need you here! You are taking our jobs and money!’ I started to run away, but I was beaten, and my two bags of clothes were taken.”
The South African government and the police have on several occasions claimed that the constant waves of xenophobic violence are purely criminal acts and not motivated by hatred against foreigners.
South Africa has a large flow of immigrants: five million Zimbabweans and more than 3,000 from other countries in the southern region of Africa, which ends up suffocating the already weakened economy.
Economic analysts opine that the situation results in friction, since resources are scarce for everyone. During this period of the coronavirus crisis, the economic situation of the working and peasant population worsened in a very significant way.
2019 Xenophobic Attacks
In September 2019, xenophobic attacks resulted in the vandalization of foreign-owned stores and homes, which forced the owners to flee in search of security. Those interviewed by the human rights organization said that they have not recovered financially or seen justice done.
Of these attacks, South African police stated that 10 of the 12 dead were of South African nationality, while Human Rights Watch found that about 18 foreigners were reportedly killed as a result of the violence.