President’s Safety and Security Address: Derelictions and Demands regarding Non-Local South Africans
For Immediate Release
29 July 2021
The C-19 People’s Coalition calls out critical derelictions in the State President’s 17 July 2021 address over Safety and Security in the week’s unrest in the country (12–18 July) (See http://www.thepresidency.gov.za/speeches/update-president-cyril-ramaphosa-security-situation-country). President Ramaphosa neither acknowledged the xenophobic attacks perpetrated against non-local South Africans nor sought to intervene on their behalf. (See, for e.g. news reports https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2021-07-14-gauteng-looters-stoke-xenophobia-fires-as-shopkeepers-are-targeted/amp/; https://allafrica.com/stories/202107150965.html) Neither did he inform of any safety measures to combat looting and destruction to their property nor redress support for their basic needs.
We regard these as careless omissions that further marginalize non-local South Africans. The state is failing to uphold the basic and socio-economic rights, as contained in our constitution, UN, SADC and AU instruments, aimed at protecting asylum seekers, refugees and other migrants from Africa and Asia. (See, for e.g. https://www.hrw.org/legacy/reports98/sareport/App1a.htm)
It also fails to highlight the contribution made to the economy by non-local South Africans via their paying of taxes and the businesses they run. Failure to mention the impact on the economy by destruction of non-local South Africans’ businesses further stereotypes them as a burden to the economy and competitors for resources to poor and working class locals. The effect is to hide the root cause of government derelictions in properly running the economy so jobs and livelihoods for all are maximized. This fans xenophobia in the country.
The government has shut down, indefinitely, all refugee reception offices since March 2020. (See https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/opinionista/2021-02-10-ongoing-closure-of-reception-offices-leaves-refugees-and-asylum-seekers-in-undocumented-limbo/)Yet, large scale arrests are still occurring across the country, leaving undocumented non-local South Africans at increased risk of detention and deportation.
Bearing this in mind, the current deployment of the SANDF and increased militarization in the country in turn increase non-locals’ vulnerability to harassment from security forces.
Once again the President and government are missing the opportunity to implement integration measures that are key to building social cohesion. This promotes narrow nationalism, locating non-locals as a minority group vulnerable to further attack by those with xenophobic agendas. We call out this exclusion as state complicity with xenophobia.
The violence that occurred in the week’s unrest also shows troubling racist and ethnic-racist patterns, as seen in the racial profiling, vigilantism, community attacks and counter-attacks that took place in KwaZulu-Natal (e.g. Phoenix), to which the President did allude (For an excellent analysis of the different forms of violence and present tensions relating to identity, see http://abahlali.org/node/17327/) The state has to date failed to promote a meaningful decolonial society post-apartheid. The deepening socio-economic inequalities fuel old group divisions, and are condemning our country to neo-Apartheid.
The neo-liberal state agenda privileges the socio-economic advantages of a small elite, middle class and apartheid beneficiaries at the expense of the working and poor classes. The skewering is apparent in the president’s narrow interpretation of the unrest as a failed insurrection targeting the economy. This interpretation minimizes all other forms of violence people experienced during the unrest, including in their communities and places of residence. To exclude non-local South Africans from the state “voice” at this moment is thus irresponsible as tensions possibly still simmer.
We also note with concern the state oversight bodies’ less than satisfactory response to protect the human rights and safety of all. The Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) was inexplicably silent on the plight and needs of women and their children during the unrest, as was the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL) regarding places of worship being razed. The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) called for respect of human rights and safety of all but failed to have its presence sufficiently felt, this even prior to the unrest. Early warning and prevention recommendations linked to political tensions, poor governance, corruption and steep socio-economic inequalities should form part of the public vigilance, monitoring and reporting of the Chapter 9 institutions. These are some of the important features of the unrest.
As civil society we demand the following:
• The President to proclaim on the xenophobia being experienced by non-local South Africans, including those without documents, as well as redress measures for their safety, aid and access to food and others basic needs and services, and compensation for damage to their property
• Sassa to address difficulties experienced by community members trying to access food parcels promised (no response to applications or denial)
• Sassa to properly implement the renewed SRD grant so that people may access it without delay or hindrance; Home Affairs must support undocumented non-local South Africans who cannot access this without papers
• All refugee reception offices to be reopened immediately, and the online application service strengthened by toll-free hotline support to assist applicants
• Government to provide immediate clarity on the process of SANDF deployment in the unrest and currently as well as the rules and restrictions placed on its members, the same pertaining to SAPS and other law enforcement agencies; these should clearly prohibit harassment of non-local South Africans and the general public
• Government to inform of the steps it is taking to bridge various racial divisivenesses emanating from the unrest and long-term measures to promote a sense of people-belonging for all based on human rights; the investigations and peace building efforts involving the SAHRC are noted as encouraging first steps; similar processes should occur regarding xenophobia
• The state to stop criminalizing the poor accused of looting (equally applicable to non-local South Africans involved in looting); law prohibiting, it is nonetheless a gross injustice to punish people for taking food and goods to satisfy their hunger and other basic needs due to state dereliction in providing adequate employment and social support; hold instigators to legal account but engage with the socio-economic injustices that condemn many to relentless poverty; the renewal of the SRD grant while a first constructive step, is woefully inadequate to cover the majority working class and poor people’s basic needs, especially given the steep increase in food prices; the current R350 per month should be increased to the upper bound poverty line as recommended by civil society, experts and communities (https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2021-07-25-averting-south-africas-political-crisis-will-the-basic-income-grant-cut-it/amp/;
• The state (and research bodies, the media, etc.) to include in review processes of the unrest the economic impact of the destruction to the businesses and property of non-local South Africans, as well as redress and compensation measures
• State oversight bodies—the SAHRC, CGE and CRL—to respond more efficiently in the current crisis and national disaster/pandemic; government must provide these Chapter 9 institutions adequate means and capacity to fully serve their mandates; they should also review their strategies towards mandate fulfillment so as to operate with proactiveness and efficiency to ensure the rights of all are observed at all times; related input from civil society and communities would be valuable in the latter process, including non-local South African communities and leaders.
Finally, we caution of the urgent need to strengthen human and civil rights, and address socio-economic inequalities. The state opting for increased militaristic measures to deal with the unrest will not address the root causes of violence. Xenophobia and brutal poverty are inflicted on the majority of our people. They are caused by lack of political will, poor governance, corruption and ill conceived socio-economic policies pursued by the government. We emphasize the need for proper ongoing engagement with civil society and communities via their leaders, including non-local South Africans, for accessing human rights and basic needs.
(Prepared by Global South Against Xenophobia (GSAX) of the C-19 People’s Coalition)
For further information, contact:
Thilda Jack (Voice of Azania, GSAX/C-19PC)—0749602163
Roshila Nair (GSAX/Basic Needs WG/C-19PC)—0648770434
• Consortium of Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CoRMSA)
• Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR)
• Southern African Human Rights Defenders Network (SAHRDN)
• Botshabelo Unemployed Movement(BUM)
• Cry of the Excluded
• Assembly of the Unemployed
• Fight Inequality Alliance-SA (FIA-SA)
• Socio-Economics Rights Institute (SERI)
• Waterberg Women Advocacy Organization
• Marikana Youth Development Organization
• Right 2 Protest (R2P)
• Intlantsi Creative Development Project
• Greenpeace Africa (GPAf)
• Landless Peoples Movement-SA
• Right 2 Know (R2K)
• Leratong Advice Centre
• Bishop Lavis Action Community (BLAC)
• One Voice Of All Hawkers Association
• Market Users Committee (MUC)
• Hope4Health (H4H)
• Corruption Watch
• Middleburg Environmental Justice Network
• Housing Assembly (HA)
• People Against Suffering Oppression and Poverty (PASSOP)
• Chronicles of Refugees and Immigrants
• Human Rights Media Centre (HRMC)
• 360 Degrees Environmental Organisation (DEO)
• Tujaliane Community Organisation ( TUCO)
• West Coast Food Sovereignty and Solidarity Forum
• Khulumani Support Group (KSG)
• Finding Brighter Ideas (FBI)
• South African Informal Traders Forum (SAITF)
• TB Proof
• African Water Commons Collective (AWCC)
• Voice of Azania