Pretoria addresses fall-out over widespread violence
Publish date: 16 September 2019
Issue Number: 841
Diary: IBA Legalbrief Africa
President Cyril Ramaphosa has moved swiftly to contain the fall-out from the recent wave of violence directed at foreigners following a fast and furious backlash. Legalbrief reports that he is sending special envoys to deliver messages of solidarity to several heads of state and governments to address the ongoing crisis which has disrupted several communities in SA and affected Pretoria’s relationship with the rest of the continent. Presidential spokesperson Khusela Diko said the envoys would deliver a message ‘regarding the incidents of violence which have manifested in attacks on foreign nationals and destruction of property’. A report on the News24 site notes that the delegation, which includes former Justice Minister Jeff Radebe, is expected to visit Nigeria, Niger, Ghana, Senegal, Tanzania, the DRC and Zambia. The special envoys have been tasked with ‘reassuring fellow African countries that SA is committed to the ideals of pan-African unity and solidarity’. In addition, they will brief the authorities in the various countries about the steps that Pretoria is taking ‘to bring a stop to the attacks and to hold the perpetrators to account’. The communique from the Presidency came a day after Ramaphosa was booed at former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's funeral in Harare on Saturday. 'I stand before you, as a fellow African, to express my regret and to apologise for what has happened in our country,’ he said. Business Day reports that Ramaphosa said what had happened in SA ‘goes against the unity of the African people that Mugabe, Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo stood for'.
The DA has approached the Equality Court to sanction ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule for alleged hate speech, Die Burger reports. Magashule reportedly said at an event last week that ‘white South Africans are foreigners and should be exposed to violence’. The DA’s Roy Jankielsohn submitted a video recording of the event and an affidavit to the Equality Court in Bloemfontein. ‘I am asking the court to order Magashule and the ANC, under whose leadership the statements were made, to hold a news conference where they must apologise.’ Magashule’s comments were made in a speech at a rally of the South African Students’ Congress (Sasco) at the Tshwane University of Technology on 5 September. The speech was made at a time of wider attacks on foreign nationals. Magashule reportedly said black Africans shouldn’t conduct themselves in such a way towards fellow black Africans. He added that the students know many people with white skins yet don’t call them kwerekwere (a derogatory term for foreigners). Jankielsohn says in his complaint that it is clear Magashule identified white people as alternative targets for violence.
Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng says South Africans are not xenophobic. Rather, they are just hungry. He was addressing graduates at the University of KwaZulu-Natal's spring graduation on Sunday, according to a TimesLIVE report. ‘South Africans are not xenophobic, it's not denialism. Let me explain to you what I am talking about. Why is it that it was in 2008 that the largest African-on-African attack happened and why is it that a large-scale attack of that nature is happening in 2019? Is there something that correlates,’ said Mogoeng, who is UKZN's chancellor. ‘There was an economic problem in 2008 and there's a serious economic problem now. Many people have been retrenched, there are no jobs and life is expensive,’ he added. Mogoeng said people were committing violent attacks, like those seen in the Johannesburg CBD recently, because they were desperate. ‘Desperate people resort to desperate measures. I am not saying these people mustn't be punished. No, every crime must be punished because it projects SA in a very bad way ... as a country and people who are incapable of addressing their problems,’ he said. ‘Why are intellectuals who are South African not attacking other intellectuals from other African countries. Why are executives in the corporate sector not attacking other Africans in the corporate sector? They have things to eat, they have jobs, they have opportunities,’ he added.
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwean Government will evacuate at least 171 Zimbabweans from SA following the death of two locals in the recent violence. The Herald reports that this was confirmed by Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa who confirmed that Foreign Affairs Minister Sibusiso Moyo has briefed Cabinet on the situation Mutsvangwa said the Zimbabwean Consulate in SA is engaging with international organisations to seek support for affected nationals and ‘government continues to monitor the situation with a view to escalating the evacuation exercise should the situation deteriorate’.
Nigerians repatriated after a wave of xenophobic violence in SA were offered soft business loans, R1 600 in airtime and 9GB of data when they arrived home. A TimesLIVE report notes that 187 expats returned to Nigeria on Wednesday on an Air Peace flight. Some waved images of burnt shops when they disembarked. CEO of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission Abike Dabiri-Erewa met the passengers and assured them that they would be assisted. Arrangements are under way to airlift a second group of Nigerians.
Former President Thabo Mbeki has told an audience that SA has a ‘permissive atmosphere’ that ‘allows for’ the current tide of violence sweeping the country ‘and it’s very difficult not to be depressed’. In a Business Day analysis, Tom Eaton notes that Mbeki’s determination to resist reality has always been resolute. ‘Perhaps this was an essential survival strategy on his part: when you’re Nelson Mandela’s successor and you have the charisma and warmth of a gherkin, perhaps it’s better to check out.’ Whatever its causes, it was spectacular. Eaton says Mbeki saved his most urgent fugue state for Zimbabwe. ‘It is tempting to stare in disbelief at the self-righteous, faux ignorance of Mbeki. It would be cathartic to let our jaws drop and ask: is he serious? Is the guy who appointed Jackie Selebi, and whose party then fired Vusi Pikoli for investigating Selebi, seriously asking why criminality is out of control in this country? Is the guy who actively helped destroy Zimbabwe seriously fretting about the fabric of SA? We also know why Mbeki worked so hard to keep Mugabe in power. Certainly, Big Man hero worship was a factor, as was a shared paranoia about Western and white influence. But perhaps the ultimate motive was the cold-eyed pragmatism of the doctor quarantining a sick population: given the choice between a messy, probably violent transition into genuine democracy and the relative quiet of autocratic repression, Mbeki chose the latter.’