Diaspora forum slams attacks on immigrants

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A man reacts to tear gas fired by police fire to disperse rival marches by hundreds of protesters, after mobs looted stores this week believed to belong to immigrants in Pretoria, South Africa, February 24, 2017.

JOHANNESBURG – The African Diaspora Forum (ADF), an organisation that unites immigrant communities living in South Africa, has condemned the recent spate of xenophobic attacks and the anti-immigrant march held in Pretoria on Friday.

Chairperson of the Africa Diaspora Forum, Marc Gbaffou, called for local and foreign communities to stand together, saying that no solution could be found in an atmosphere of conflict and violence.

He said South African society must address the underlying causes of xenophobia, and that the Department of Home Affairs treat immigrants well by stopping bribery and corruption by its officials.

Gbaffou was speaking during a joint briefing with the United Front, the New Trade Union Federation, and other supporting organisations.

He produced a letter they had written about a month ago to President Jacob Zuma, Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba, Gauteng Premier David Makhura, national police Commissioner Lieutenant General Khomotso Phahlane, and political party leaders, urging them to publicly condemn what was a looming attack on foreign nationals.

“We are strongly opposed to the hatred, intimidation and fear that we see spreading in South Africa. We have called this conference to condemn xenophobic attitudes, speech and attacks on immigrants,” Gbaffour said.

IN PICTURES: Pretoria anti-illegal immigrant protest turns violent

“We are calling for unity and solidarity among the people, irrespective of where they were born. The economic problems of poverty, unemployment and inequality, including the social problems of crime, drug abuse and other social ills, can only be solved if we stand together to address them.”

This comes after an anti-immigrant march, organised by a group calling itself Mamelodi Concerned Residents, turned violent in Pretoria, with shops and businesses belonging to foreigners forced to shut down for the day.

An anti-immigrant sentiment has been brewing the past couple of weeks during which South Africans targeted and burned down houses and shops of Nigerians in Pretoria West, accusing them of illegal activities.

Buildings and houses suspected to be drug dens and brothels, also housing Nigerian businesses, were burned in Rosettenville, Johannesburg, after locals accused them of peddling drugs and prostitution in the area.

Chairperson of the United Front, Trevor Ngwane, blamed Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba for fanning the flames of hatred against foreigners, saying that the mayor must rectify his mistake.

“(Herman) Mashaba fell into a trap of right-wing populism. He blamed the problems of Johannesburg on so-called illegal immigrants. His words sparked off the fire that consumed Rosettenville. The fire spread to Pretoria West. Today the violence and chaos continues,” Ngwane said.

“It is, however, not too late to amend. Mashaba must take active steps to fight xenophobia. He must go into communities calling meetings, educate and raise awareness against xenophobia. He must take active steps to protect those under xenophobic attack.”

The Foundation of Human Rights also said it was deeply concerned about intimidation and xenophobic attacks against foreigners, and called for the police to be vigilant and to prevent any further outbreaks of violence.