SA violence: Bring culprits to book

In fact, the situation is still far from the harmony, love and rosier picture aptly reflected on the colours of the rainbow.

In the latest wave of violence against foreigners, a Mozambican was killed in Gauteng province two weeks ago when a mob attacked him after he had returned to his home after weeks of hiding at his workplace.

This raises fresh fears that the violence could continue and that foreigners from neighbouring countries and elsewhere in Africa are still not safe in South Africa.

It also raises questions about the deafening silence by countries, particularly those in SADC, whose nationals were either killed, injured or lost their valuables during the violence in May and June.

Apart from Nigeria which has demanded compensation for its nationals who were victims, no other country has come out openly to demand a thorough investigation of the causes of the violence.

We are told the violence is due to the fact that foreigners are allegedly taking jobs and women away from locals.

But is this really the root cause of the violence, given that foreigners have been coming to work in South Africa’s mines since the days of Wenela?

And what of the silence by countries whose nationals have been killed? Do these countries’ governments think the lives of their nationals are expendable?

We beg to differ!

Isn’t it ironic that South Africa, which claims to be a shining example of economic progress and respect for human rights, just folds its hands in the wave of such despicable violence under the glare of the international cameras? Something is terribly wrong in the Rainbow Nation. Everybody needs to feel safe and secure whether they are at home or away. Everyone needs to feel safe and secure in the sense that their government back home will act on their behalf whatever happens to them.

Everyone needs to feel safe and secure away from home because it is the host country’s duty to provide security for all people, whether foreigners or locals.

That is why Americans feel safe wherever they go. They feel safe and secure because they know that whatever happens to them in foreign lands, their government will be there for them ‘ whether they are dead or alive. The world over, they say, you harm or kill an American national at your own peril.

We would have expected countries whose nationals were killed during the xenophobic attacks to call for the South African authorities to launch a thorough investigation into the causes of the violence.

Was it really xenophobia? Or was there a hidden hand behind the violence targeted against nationals from a particular country, which got out of hand and ended up also including all black foreigners in that country? Doesn’t it raise curiosity that no people from other races were attacked during the “xenophobia”.

A thorough investigation or a commission of inquiry needs to be appointed to establish the origins of these attacks, especially in the wake of a statement by South African President Thabo Mbeki recently that xenophobia is not a problem in that country.

Mbeki was quoted at a recent ceremony in Johannesburg to remember victims of the attacks as saying: “I will not hesitate to assert that my people are not diseased by the terrible affliction of xenophobia.

The days of May which have brought us here today were visited on our country by people who acted with criminal intent.”

Well said, Cde Mbeki.

But let’s go a bit further than that. Who are these criminals and where are they? Why is it so difficult for crime authorities in South Africa to round up these perpetrators and let justice take its course?

Families of the victims out there want to see justice being done. They can only rest once these criminals are brought to book.

And why is there this deafening silence from governments whose nationals were killed?

Is it because we are Africans and we do not respect the sanctity of human lives?

We hope the South African authorities will get to the bottom of this matter and that not only South Africans, but all Africans, will live side by side with their brothers and sisters from fellow African countries, and from elsewhere in the world, without having to resort to violence and barbarism to settle differences.

If not thoroughly investigated and if no perpetrators are brought to book, these incidents might get out of control, be replicated in other countries and derail all the good work that has been done by SADC leaders in the name of regional integration.

August 2008
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