No justice for victims of xenophobia, five years after 2008 attacks

Some of the people who came to support the picket action in Pretoria. “We beg the minister to have mercy on us, we struggle to get money to meet the transport cost from Johannesburg to Pretoria, what more if the offices are moved to Musina? We are suffering!” one of the women said during her speech outside Marabastad.

 

This week marks five years since the 2008 xenophobic attacks that broke out in South Africa. As we look back and reflect on these, there is a realisation that, whilst there has been some work done to detect the early signs and improve response mechanisms much more still needs to be done to promote peaceful communities. The sad reality is that attacks on non-nationals have continued over the years. The 2011, statistics reveal that about hundred people were seriously injured and on average one person is killed every week and over a thousand people were displaced due to xenophobic violence. 2012 was no exception, as with every incident of service delivery protests, non-nationals would be targeted, victimised and displaced. 2013, has also seen the numbers of those affected by xenophobia remaining high. Between January and February 2013, CoRMSA noted over 10 incidence of xenophobic violence, in which more than 200 people were displaced and a lot of property was destroyed whilst people were exposed to violence, theft and displacement.

 

For many victims of xenophobic violence, the battle does not end when the crowds disperse and they are re-integrated into communities. Instead, many victims of violence are left vulnerable and exposed. There have been reports from some victims that when they go to police stations to report their cases, they are all given one case number and little details are taken about what has happened to them. The police do not realise that within xenophobic violence, are cases of murder, rape, theft and assault. There has been continued reports by some of the people who have been affected that, despite informing the law enforcement officials that they can identify the people who attacked them, often the police do not do much about this and the perpetrators therefore do not face any accountability. This is a blatant of justice for those affected.

 

CoRMSA Executive Director, Ms Sicel’mpilo Shange-Buthane said, “we appreciate the work that has been done by government, civil society, academia and other stakeholders to address xenophobia and promote social cohesion since 2008, however, these have not been adequate thus far.” We therefore call on all sectors to join hands to promote social cohesion and peaceful coexistence within communities promoting good governance. As we remember the victims of the 2008 attacks, both South African and non-nationals, we further call on the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development to introduce Hate Crimes legislation as this will ensure that perpetrators are held accountable for these bias motivated attacks.