Africa South Africans pray against ‘xenophobia’

South Africans pray against ‘xenophobia’

Hundreds of South Africans on Saturday held a special prayer in Johannesburg, expressing hopes that a recent wave of anti-immigrant violence would come to an end.

(AA) – Hundreds of South Africans on Saturday held a special prayer in Johannesburg, expressing hopes that a recent wave of anti-immigrant violence would come to an end.

Deputy Director-General of the Department of Home Affairs, Mayihlome Tshwete, warned during the gathering that those who instigated anti-immigrant violence would go to jail.

He said some South Africans wrongly believed that the nationals of other African countries were coming to South Africa to take jobs from its native citizens.

“South Africa is not in isolation with Africa,” Tshwete said.

“Most of our tourism is coming from Africa,” he added, noting that during the “brutal apartheid era” his parents lived in exile in another African country.

Tshwete revealed that over 70 people had been arrested in Johannesburg, following the recent spate of violence against African immigrants.

The violence began last week in the coastal city of Durban where mobs descended on the homes and shops of foreign migrants, accusing them of stealing jobs, committing crimes and putting a burden on social services in South Africa.

Six people have been killed in the violence so far.

The crowd at the prayer meeting, which was held in the suburb of Yeoville, included South African and foreign nationals. They sang together and denounced what they described as “xenophobia.”

“We must all condemn this violence against our fellow Africans,” Jacob Mambolo, a member of the executive council for human settlement in the Gauteng provincial government, said.

He warned against sweeping generalizations regarding African migrants.

“Not all African migrants are involved in crime or drugs,” Mambolo said.

He added that many African migrants were skilled and contributed positively to South Africa.

He said it was wrong to use foreign nationals as “scapegoats” for the country’s social and economic problems.

“The best way to end this problem is for migrant organizations to work together with South African organizations,” Mambolo said.

He asked prayer meeting attendees to return to their respective communities and speak out against xenophobia.

“Killing fellow Africans is not a solution to our problems,” Zakariya Ramatula, the chairperson of the One Voice of All Hawkers Association, which represents small businesses in Johannesburg, told the gathering.

He said if the ongoing anti-immigrant violence continued, investors would shun South Africa, which would have a devastating impact on the country’s economy at the end of the day.

“Those attacking foreign nationals are cowards and criminals,” Ramatula said, advising his countrymen to learn how to co-exist with foreign nationals.

Some representatives of the Christian and Muslim faiths participated in the prayer along with the leaders of different migrant communities and solidarity networks.

“Some African countries had taxes levied for anti-apartheid movements and stood with us during our difficulty times,” Kwara Kekana of the South African chapter of the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions group, told the audience.

She said those attacking foreign nationals were not doing it in the name of South Africans.   

“We are committed to fighting xenophobia and some of our colleagues have lost their lives fighting these crimes,” Col. Geoffrey Meyer, the police commander of Yeoville station, said during the event.

He said nothing would stop him and his colleagues from fighting xenophobia and protecting everybody living in South Africa.

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