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The Mandela miracle continues to fade

Publish date: 09 September 2019
Issue Number: 840
Diary: IBA Legalbrief Africa
Category: Xenophobia

On 16 June 1976, the youths of Soweto set aside their textbooks and marched to the Orlando Pirates football stadium. Legalbrief reports that 13-year-old Hector Peterson was shot dead by the police and SA would never be the same again. The ‘unrest’ spread rapidly, serving notice that the revolution had begun and something would have to be done to tame a country that had so badly lost its way. A month later, Fifa expelled the local football association and SA was severed from the global game for 14 years. On Saturday night, the famous stadium which hosted the opening concert at the start of the 2010 World Cup stood empty – a powerful and symbolic reminder of how this former land of Apartheid has become ostracised by a continent that did so much for its liberation struggle. Madagascar, the stand-in opponents for Bafana Bafana, bowed out at the eleventh hour saying that because of concerns relating to the security of the delegation ‘it was necessary and judicious to decline the invitation’. Earlier in the week, Zambia pulled its invitation for SA to play its national team in Lusaka over the xenophobic violence. The match‚ scheduled to have been played at the 60 000-seater National Heroes Stadium was to have been the first fixture for new SA head coach Molefi Ntseki. And across the continent, retaliation for the widespread looting of foreign-own shops and businesses has been fast and furious.

Crowds clashed with police in Abuja as demonstrators burned tyres and hurled rocks outside a mall where a branch of the Shoprite supermarket is located. 'We must avenge the death of our citizens in SA,' said protester Joseph Tasha. A TimesLIVE report notes that the Department of International Relations and Cooperation confirmed that the South African embassy in Lagos, Nigeria, was forced to close after being attacked. MultiChoice confirmed that it has shut its offices and branches in Nigeria and Zambia following protests at its offices in Lagos and Lusaka. Its head of corporate affairs Joe Heshu told Fin24 that the branches would remain closed until the situation had stabilised. MTN stores in three Nigerian cities have been attacked and all stores and service centres in the country have been shut until further notice. Shoprite has confirmed that several stores in Nigeria and Zambia were unable to open due to protest action, and extensive damage has been done to supermarkets. A Pick n Pay store in Lusaka was also attacked by protesters. The mall also has a Builders Warehouse and Food Lovers Market and, ironically, is located on Thabo Mbeki Road. CNN reports that Ethiopia's Foreign Ministry said rioters destroyed SA owned businesses in Addis Ababa and a popular South African clothing chain was looted in the DRC. A report on the IoL site notes that Botswana has issued an advisory, warning nationals travelling to SA to 'exercise extreme caution'. And hours after Tanzania secured its aircraft which was seized in SA, it announced a temporary suspension of scheduled flights to SA. The Citizen reports that Works Transport and Communication Minister Isack Kamwelwe said Air Tanzania’s flights to Johannesburg have been suspended until the SA authorities commits to assure them of both the safety of the equipment and passengers. ‘We have temporarily suspended flights until when calm is restored because we wouldn't want to fly passengers to a destination with chaos,’ said Kamwelwe who addressed the media at Julius Nyerere International Airport. He said the suspension has nothing to do with the dispute over the grounded aircraft.

Full TimesLIVE report

Full report on the Fin24 site

Full CNN report

Full report on the IoL site

The Obama Africa Leaders in Southern Africa condemned the violence against foreigners in the strongest terms. ‘We are outraged to once again witness these attacks on our fellow Africans. These incidents that have marred SA’s reputation of peace and reconciliation are criminal and have all the hallmarks of xenophobia. The Afrophobia demonstrated recently in Gauteng, and across our country attacks black and brown bodies, many of whom are from South Asia or other African countries. There is no justification for these criminal and vile acts and those responsible should be apprehended with immediate effect by the law enforcement agencies,’ it said in a statement on the IoL site.

Full report on the IoL site

International Relations Minister Naledi Pandor today (Monday) met ambassadors and high commissioners from Africa to ease tensions over the diplomatic fallout. According to TimesLIVE, Pandor listed the legacy of apartheid, which caused economic inequalities in the country, as among the reasons locals attacked ‘African brothers and sisters in a scramble for crumbs’. This phenomenon was among a ‘toxic mix of socio-economic challenges’ and should not be overlooked if long-term solutions were to be found to the current crisis, she said. It was the same situation of poverty, lack of skills and economic inequalities in other African countries that continued to push migrants to the south in a quest for economic opportunities, said the Minister. South African diplomats across the continent were last week instructed to stick to a script when asked about the violence against migrants. The note contained a blanket condemnation of violent attacks ‘in the strongest possible terms’. However, no mention was made of the xenophobic motive behind the violence. The Sunday Times understands President Cyril Ramaphosa took the same line in his meeting with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari's envoy, Ahmed Rufai Abubakar, on Friday. Ramaphosa is said to have stood firm in his meeting with Abubaker, calling on Nigeria to assist with some of its citizens who were committing crimes in SA and were in the country illegally. He reasserted his publicly held view that rising nationalism globally is affecting the rise of tribalism on the continent. The Cape Argus reports that Nigerian High Commissioner to SA Kabiru Bala has broken his silence on the matter. ‘Since the time this xenophobic violence started years ago, there has been no successful prosecution or conviction of any of the perpetrators. If there was evidence that a group had been convicted, it would give confidence to foreigners that something was being done.’

Full TimesLIVE report

Full Sunday Times report (subscription needed)

Full Cape Argus report

Nigeria’s ruling party this weekend urged the government to nationalise SA companies operating in the West African nation in retaliation for the chaos, notes a Fin24 report. ‘Whereas South Africans continue to benefit from the Nigerian business environment and repatriating billions of dollars, the South African authorities appear jealous of the menial jobs which some Nigerians and other black people are involved in,’ said All Progressives Congress party Chairman Adams Oshiomhole. He said ‘it is worth it for the Nigerian Government to take steps to take over the remaining shares of MTN that are owned by South Africans’. Oshiomhole also called for the revocation of landing rights for South African Airways.

Full report on the Fin24 site

In a hard hitting Mail & Guardian analysis, Simon Allison reflects on how the Mandela miracle has faded across the continent and South Africans are increasingly greeted with suspicion and hostility. He offers three reasons for the switch. ‘The first is how South African multinationals have ruthlessly expanded into new markets, sometimes using their financial clout to wipe out local operations. On the one hand, this brought supermarkets and cellphone operators and banks into countries that needed them; on the other hand, all the profits were being siphoned into an already-bloated JSE. The fact that the boards and the middle management of these corporations were and remain overwhelmingly pale is not lost on anyone. The second is the shift in South African foreign policy, which went from Nelson Mandela’s human rights rhetoric and Thabo Mbeki’s “I am an African” speech, to Jacob Zuma’s bruising battle to appoint his former wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, as boss of the AU Commission.’ And Allison notes that the third ‘and by far the most significant’ are the repeated bouts of extreme violence directed at Africans living in SA. ‘The news of attacks on foreigners in SA will spread along migrant routes even before it appears on news sites. Every time a Zimbabwean is assaulted in central Johannesburg, or a Somali-owned shop is looted in Tembisa, or a senior government official bemoans the “foreign criminals” that are taking everyone else’s jobs, the shock reverberates across borders – through WhatsApp groups and social media and long-distance phone calls – and leaves scars that may never disappear. Not too long ago, SA was beloved by the rest of Africa. Now we are reviled – and we have only ourselves to blame.’

Full analysis in the Mail & Guardian