King Zwelathini of the Zulu people called on foreigners to go home where they came from, regardless (Foreigners must go home). Jacob Zuma’s son, Edward, (Zuma’s son supports King Zwelithini’s shocking statement) supported the king. President Zuma did not condemn the king or his son. Instead, he said his son is an adult capable of making his own decisions. South African Human Rights Commission Chairman Lawrence Mushwana did not castigate King Zwelathini (Zwelithini remarks problematic). Instead, he said the King committed no offence. Johannesburg Democratic Alliance Mayor Herman Mashaba blamed foreigners for high crime rates in Johannesburg (Johannesburg mayor under fire over xenophobic comments). This is despite statistics clearly showing crime is mostly committed by local South Africans. Its all hogwash.
The only person who made a statement is lowly ranking Gauteng Premier David Makhura who in his state of the province address called on local South Africans to not attack or blame foreigners for South Africa’s problems (Gauteng State of the Province). The problem started during the tenure of president Thabo Mbeki. Despite his pan-African sentiments, Mbeki, nevertheless, refrain from openly condemning xenophobia and instead called it criminal attacks (‘What happened?’). This started the impunity that foreigners (African foreigners) experience in South Africa today. Government did not come out to call xenophobia as such and based on that to move swiftly and strongly to punish it. Following 2008 xenophobic attacks, a few people were rounded up but charged with various common law offences as there was and still is no offence of xenophobia. Instead of attacking it head on, both Mbeki and Zuma government play politics with xenophobia refusing to confront local population for fear they will lose votes if they did. Even after a Mozambican national was burned alive in 2008 and several foreigners after that killed in macabre acts of naked violence, government continued to sing and dance with the xenophobic attackers and orchestrators.
Need I go into the history of the ANC and of the liberation struggle in Africa? No, I need not. Every well meaning African government, the UN, AU and other international organisations should condemn South African government for flirting with xenophobic killers and attackers. Government should be made to realise that this is not how to run government in modern times. The role of government is to protect all those who live in it. This is the philosophy of the 1955 ANC Freedom Charter which is now just a statement on paper.
Michelo Hansungule, in his personal capacity
Professor of Law, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, South Africa