Open Letter to: President and the People of the Republic of South Africa

 In C19PC Statements, Media Alert

Open Letter issued by:
Global South Against Xenophobia (GSAX)/COVID-19 People’s Coalition

To: The President and the People of the Republic of South Africa

Stop Xenophobia NOW: A Matter of Our Moral-Social Conscience


Global South Against Xenophobia (GSAX) notes with alarm the rising xenophobia currently
occurring in South Africa. We call on government, politicians and their followers, social groups,
and Chapter 9 institutions to stop xenophobia by committing to address socio-economic rights
issues constructively. They and the public too must act to advance and protect the rights of all in
the Republic.
We present a set of critical demands/recommendations, a petition for members of the public and
organizations to sign, endorsements and a lengthy analysis we encourage being read.
We make the following demands/recommendations:

  • Arrest and charge ring-leaders Gayton Makenzie, Nhlanhla Lux Dhlamini, Julius Malema and
    their followers committing unlawful acts against non-locals; parliament must also sanction
    for contravening their oath to serve the constitution; pressure on politicians and parliament
    for rights and law adherence will halt the advance of xenophobia and right-wing, fascist
    tendencies presently on the rise
  • Government must stop scapegoating non-locals to compensate for its poor governance,
    corruption and party in-fighting; it must provide work and basic needs and services for all,
    including via an adequate Basic Income Grant for unemployed persons aged 18–59; it must
    ditch its neoliberal policies, corruption and mismanagement that create steep inequalities, and
    lead to social tensions over socio-economic rights and opportunities; the State President must
    place non-locals under his protection; Chapter 9 institutions must step up their oversight
    work to effectively protect human rights for all in the Republic
  • Police, other law enforcement agencies and private security companies must stop their
    violent targeting of poor/working class people, including non-locals and those
    undocumented; SAPS must transform from a militant to a human-rights protecting, service-
    oriented force;
  • Home Affairs must efficiently issue documents to asylum seekers, refugees and migrants,
    and implement proper integration, and
  • Civil society, Chapter 9 institutions and government must collaborate to educate the public
    on rights and responsibilities regarding asylum-seekers/refugees/non-locals/migrants as well
    as conflict management processes to address contentious issues between non-locals and
    locals in communities.

We call on the President and his government as well as parliament to for once display ethical
leadership by upholding the rights of all to stop xenophobia. Stringencies, vigilantism and
violence directed at non-locals minoritize this group and eat at human rights and moral-social
conscience in the Republic.

We caution poorly addressed socio-economic inequalities, right wing political and social
tendencies, and inefficient responses by government and Chapter 9 institutions threaten to push
us over the edge. We must insist on rights-respecting governance and behaviour, with redress of
grievances confined to legitimate processes and democratic structures.
We must act NOW to halt fascist elements rubbishing our democracy, which government is
entertaining and aiding. They must know we will fight them. Ours is a protest for social justice in
its essential and most admirable form, not their shameful show of violent domination pretending
at social and economic transformation.

Please add your signature to our online petition regarding these [
social-conscience-and-democratic-character ].

For further information, contact:
Roshila Nair—064 877 0434
Danmore Chuma—062 482 1238


  1. Consortium of Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CoRMSA)
  2. Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR)
  3. Botshabelo Unemployment Movement (BUM)
  4. Southern African Human Rights Defenders Network (SAHRDN)
  5. Marikana Youth Development Forum
  6. ILRIG (International Labour, Research & Information Group)
  7. United Front
  8. Africa Solidarity Netwok (ASONET)
  9. Value Ahead of Competition (VAC)
  10. Umthombo Wempilo
  11. Ke Nako Information Hub
  12. People Against Suffering Oppression and Poverty (PASSOP)
  13. Abanebhongo Persons with DISABILITIES
  14. InsideOut (IO)
  15. People Against Apartheid and Fascism (PAAF)
  16. Market Users Committee (MUC)
  17. Farmer’s Network-SA
  18. Fight Inequality Alliance (FIA)
  19. Africa Revival Foundation (ARF)
  20. Right2Know (R2K)
  21. Intlungu YaseMatyotyombeni Movement (IYM)
  22. Ndifuna Ukwazi (NU)
  23. Chronicles of Refugees and Immigrants (ChRI)
  24. Rev Annie Kirke (Independent Conflict Transformation Practitioner)
  25. Derek Ronnie (Independent Mediator/Conflict Transformation Practitioner)
  26. Prof. Viswas Satgar
  27. One Voice For All Traders
  28. Housing Assembly (HA)
  29. Waterberg Women Advocacy Organization (WWAO)
  30. Assembly of the Unemployed (AOU)
  31. Hope4Health
  32. Human Rights Media Centre (HRMC/Refugee Rights Programme)
  33. Naledi
  34. Eastridge Women’s Circle (EWC)/Feeding and Youth Development Programme)
  35. Ithuba Lethu Recycling
  36. Lehae Sports Forum
  37. Apsara Primary Cooperative
  38. Igula Lefundo
  39. Gauteng Informal Development Alliance
  40. Thembelihle Community Development Trust (TCDS)
  41. Somalis in South Africa
  42. Brave Rock Girl (BRAVE)

Our Analysis about Rising Xenophobia in South Africa
Global South Against Xenophobia calls for the prompt arrest and charging of Gayton Mackenzie,
Nhlanhla Lux Dhlamini and Julius Malema for unlawful acts against non-locals living in South
Africa as well as locals also threatened. We also call for parliament’s censuring of the two
politicians involved for breaking their Oath of Office, sworn to protect the Constitution. We are
submitting relevant letters to the National Minister of Police and National Police Commissioner
as well as to the Parliament Speaker and Head of the Portfolio Committee on Ethics.

Government must itself stop scapegoating poor/working class black migrants from the continent
and Asia. Its poor policies and implementation are increasing migrants’ vulnerability. Its
increasing ‘crackdowns’ are a thin attempt to hide its state mismanagement. This is emboldening
xenophobic right wing groups and political parties with fascist tendencies. This must stop.

The President, as the first citizen of the country, has particular responsibility to prevent
discrimination based on social identity. Socio-economic redress based on narrow nationalism
must be replaced with non-violent mechanisms relating to non-locals and issues of job creation,
social grants, crime, documentation, employment and other economic opportunities as well as

access to basic needs and services. The Constitution compels all, including the governing party,
to address issues within the framework of human rights for all. This means, amongst others,
refraining from perpetrating or condoning hate speech, making threats to others, issuing
instructions that impinge on rights and/or cause bodily harm to people and/or their property.
Protection is the right of all in the Republic.

Government’s mismanagement has exacerbated poverty, and now citizens are taking up matters
destructively. Escalating xenophobia is occurring via particular government and state omissions,
such as denialism, poor policy and implementation, observation and oversight of rights, as well
as via commission, such as increased stringencies and violence directed at migrants.

Such state xenophobia causes political and social violence in poor/working class black
communities, affecting approximately 3.5 million non-locals and countless locals. Yet the
President, following recent attacks on non-locals at the Bara taxi rank in Gauteng, keeps insisting
it is not xenophobia. While it is true South Africa is a signatory to various conventions for
refugees and asylum seekers and accepts migrants into the country, its domestic integration
policies and implementation are weak. The Report to the President by the Panel of Experts on the
July 2021 unrest also notes that “in times of crisis, more than at any other time, the President
must lead government in communicating a single, clear message about what is happening, why it
is happening and what the government is doing to address the matter” (p. 140). Yet the message
appears to be the opposite from the highest office in the land, obfuscating proper analysis and
mismanaging redress. Such omissions scapegoat migrants, rendering them vulnerable in
frustrated communities faced with scarce socio-economic resources.
Yet both groups experience extreme inequality and suffering, the direct result of government’s
neo-liberal policies and rampant corruption perpetrated by its officials and by the corporates it
runs after. Xenophobic violence in 2008, 2015, 2019, and since the Covid-19 pandemic indicate
a pattern of minoritizing of non-locals. This entails their isolation as a group whose rights are not
guaranteed under the nation-state. Paper rights exist for non-locals but are not properly upheld.
“Crackdowns” on non-locals by government, right wing politicians and their supporters and
social vigilante groups, amongst others, attest to this phenomenon. Increasingly, migrants who
are undocumented migrants are branded “illegal”. Yet it is the Department of Home Affair’s
(DHA) failure to issue documents that is rendering thousands of migrants vulnerable under the
law, with police increasingly arresting and detaining them. In xenophobic attacks, we see police
failing to protect victims and often joining perpetrators in victimizing them. It is worrying this is
occurring as fascist politicians and right wing vigilante groups accelerate their xenophobic

Government appears to intend resolving the steep inequalities and tensions it has entrenched by
adding to its failings. The police, other law enforcement agencies and private security companies
target non-locals, the homeless, informal traders, those without documents and others living with
precarity. The cancellation of the Zimbabwean Exemption Permits (ZEP) last year is disrupting
the lives of thousands who have settled here over many years, and suggests future “crackdowns”
on other non-locals, especially those considered “economic migrants”. We reject this term,
reserved as it is for poor/working class migrants from the continent and Asia and not middle-
class, professional and business people or white migrants from the global North. This reflects the

pervasive racism-classism of capitalist economics—moneyed migrants are welcome but the poor
are “a problem”. We note too, the most vulnerable are migrant women and their children.
Ironically, via its SADC and AU affiliations, South Africa supports corrupt African regimes that
terrorize their domestic populations. Many flee to simply remain alive, yet government fails to
protect them here.

The government has joined the wretched gang of politicians that fails the black majority in
Africa. Here, the impoverished victims of Apartheid now suffer under a neo-liberal regime that
enriches itself at their expense. The government has lost its moral high ground as a democratic
regime of any note and shows increasing affinity to betray our fundamental rights. Activists from
working class/poor communities pursuing social justice face arrest while xenophobes roam the
streets freely. Is it coincidental the launch of “Operation Buya Mthetho” (bring back the law), a
collaboration of city mayors, SARS, police and DHA, ostensibly to crackdown on crime, closely
preceded the xenophobic attacks in Gauteng in January?

We caution these failures are escaping the proper notice and redress of Chapter 9 institutions
charged with oversight responsibility for rights protection. This adds to the vulnerability of those
undocumented, poor non-locals and locals, exploited workers, non-local children and women.
Locals too in positive relationships with non-locals, including via marriage and as intimate
partners, in families, and as friends, neighbours, employers, employees and business partners,
suffer. All fall victim to deteriorating social relationships as government reneges on its 2019
National Action Plan to Eradicate Racism and Xenophobia for improved social cohesion. This
failure was also pivotal in the July 2021 unrest, the instigators who remain largely veiled.
Instead, known culprits like Gayton Mackenzie advanced to assume political office via a
xenophobic ticket and Nhlanhla Lux Dhlamini, heroized for preventing looting of a Soweto mall,
has expanded his xenophobic vigilantism via Operation Dudula.
The Report on the July 2021 unrest notes many fear “a repeat of such violence find[ing] ground
in the all-too-familiar contexts of negative political contestation, where certain interests take
advantage of the levels of poverty, inequality, lack of service delivery and social tensions to
advance their cause” (pp. 3-4). This is already happening with rising xenophobia and
increasingly stringent measures against non-locals by various government offices—police and
DHA, labour/job reservation policies for locals and health policies denying non-locals access to
free health care. The Report fails to specifically discuss the large scale violence against non-
locals during the unrest (it mentions ‘foreign nationals’ twice only and not in relation to the
unrest). Nonetheless, it includes the full 60 million population in this important recommendation:
“social cohesion and support programmes, including solidarity networks that bridge the racial
and class divides in society must be supported by all social partners, to ensure that there is
accountability, restorative justice and compensation of those who have suffered harm through the
violence (p. 129).
The latter nowhere in sight, government, various other party politicians and social groups and
individuals are instead complicit in dominating a “minority” group via crackdowns and
stringencies, threats, hate speech, and physical, psychological and other forms of violence.
Currently, we are witnessing a failure of governance to protect people and their rights as well as
diminishing “moral social conscience” in the country. The lower caste Indian anti-colonial

advocate, BR Ambedkar, in the interregnum of the British exiting and independent democratic
India emerging, emphasized the need for critical awareness of the limitations of law and rights
under the nation-state. He noted the vital need for social-moral conscience, without which a
regime of rights is unsustainable:
Rights are protected not by law but by the social and moral conscience of society. If social
conscience is such that it is prepared to recognize the rights which law chooses to enact rights
will be safe and secure. But if the fundamental rights are opposed by the community, no Law, no
Parliament, no judiciary can guarantee them in the real sense of the word. What is the use of
fundamental rights to the Negroes in America, to the Jews in Germany, and to the Untouchables
in India? Social conscience […] is the only safeguard of all rights fundamental or non-
fundamental. (BR Ambedkar. Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar: Writings and Speeches, Vol. 1 p. 222, as
cited in Nadeem Mohamed, 2019. “On the Margins of Faith: A Critical Historical Study of
Muslim Religious Identity and the Minority Ahmadi Community in Cape Town” Dissertation,
University of Johannesburg. (Unpublished))
We can add to that the hundreds of millions of Muslim under Modi’s fascist government who
have been stripped of their citizenship and are daily subjected to socio-economic discrimination
and terrible violence. Many are warning of a pending genocide in that country amidst calls for
the riddance of minority Muslims by right wing Hindu authorities.
We at this moment in South Africa must ask the same question Ambedkar poses about social-
moral conscience and rights protection with regard to about 3.5 million non-local brothers and
sisters who live here with us. Barely three decades and there is convenient amnesia about the
support given to us in our anti-apartheid struggle by the peoples of Africa and Asia who offered
us Pan African solidarity and Non-Aligned Movement support to end apartheid. Our neighbors in
Angola, Mozambique, and South West Africa’s (now Namibia) own oppressed people, for
instance, were ruthlessly bombed and raided by apartheid security forces as punishment for
sheltering our liberation soldiers training there and fighting a war against the apartheid regime
from the protective cover of the wider continent.
Countless people in these countries died thus for our freedom that is now being squandered by an
irresponsible government that privileges self-enrichment and profit over its suffering people as
well as opportunistic politicians and social groups victimizing vulnerable migrants. How can we
blame migrant people who share our survival struggles for the betrayals of those in power or
those opportunistically seeking power? What is the sense in supporting right-wing violence that
serves only to divide us when we should be standing together in solidarity to get what is rightly
all ours? Can we afford to leave unchecked the increasing discrimination and militancy (by
DHA, Labour, police, etc.) against non-local victims, by xenophobes and corrupt elites who fail
to address the root causes of our suffering? Should we not join against these culprits who
victimize all the poor in the Republic?

The July 2021 Unrest Expert Report observes crucially that:
… the people of the country are the ultimate bedrock of stability. For this, giving people a
meaningful stake in society is essential … What we have observed is a growing trend of
criminality, including the threat or instigation of violence, cloaked as legitimate political activity.
This is a difficult but necessary conversation that we must have … in society and in Parliament…
(p. 142).

The Report’s final suggestion is “[for] reimagining the social compact, and giving dignity to all.
It cannot be that almost three decades into our democracy, there is still such deep racialized
poverty and inequality in our society. Without an end to or a reversal of these conditions, we will
only see greater insecurity, which will require more diversion of resources to security (p. 145). In
other words, the current situation worsening and a return to apartheid patterns of more and more
violence against the poor who daily experience unrelenting suffering.
Government stringencies against non-locals to “appease” frustrated South African citizens
steeped in poverty and inequality are misleading and offer no real solutions. Those encouraging
minoritizing of groups—non-locals at this moment but who else tomorrow—are tipping us into
desolate terrain. Our solution is standing together resolutely to demand un-deferred equitable
access to our country’s resources, equal rights and dignity for all. Our struggle for this will only
be valid if it is a righteous fight for human rights for all—without exception–at all times.

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