National Human Rights Day Press Statement                                                                                         21 March 2019.

For Immediate release:

CoRMSA Calls for a Stop in Scapegoating Migrants for Election Votes”

Endorsed by: Lawyers For Human Rights

In South Africa, the month of March is recognised as National Human Rights Month. The 21stMarch of each year being celebrated as a public holiday (Human Rights Day) to commemorate the Sharpeville Massacre, which took place on this day in 1960. In addition this day is distinct in celebrating the human rights recognised in the Constitution that took effect for all in South Africa following the 1994 democratic elections.

This year on the 8thMay, South Africans will exercise their right to vote in electing the political leader/s they believe carry their hopes forward for a better South Africa, dignity and justice for all. Already, politicians through their political parties’ mandates have started canvasing and electioneering for votes from ordinary South Africans.  In the past few weeks and months, CoRMSA has witnessed and is concerned that politicians are scapegoating migrants to mask failures to deliver and implement policies.

The xenophobic rhetoric is barbaric. Electioneering statements and comments from political leaders are directed to foreign nationals blaming them for collapsing public services such as health, education and housing. Failure to deliver critical basic services to allin South Africa cannot be blamed on foreign nationals just to win votes from poor and vulnerable voters. The rhetoric of electioneering statements and false comments fuel xenophobia and divisions in communities with voters believing that poor service delivery is caused by the presence of foreign nationals in their communities. We call on the media to critical of what leaders say. Instead of just reporting false unsubstantiated statements, politicians need to account for corruption, self-indulgence , greediness and a dismal effort to effectively implement policies. This is the real cause of poor if not non-existent service delivery in our communities. It cannot be correct and accepted that 25 years into democracy, South Africa is still debating poverty and poor service delivery in communities where South African and foreign nationals live.

CoRMSA calls for an end to electioneering that is at the expense of already vulnerable groups of people (foreign nationals) and to respect the human rights for all who live in South Africa. CoRMSA calls for politicians to speak about measures they will be taking to ensure that the Bill of Rights is a living document that is respected and informs policy formulation and implementation. The preamble to the Constitution states clearly that South Africa belongs to all who live in it. Respect for human rights and human dignity is enshrined in our Constitution for everyone including asylum seekers, refugees and migrants who live in the republic without prejudice based on nationality, race, gender or religion. Politicians should focus on challenging and addressing xenophobia and discrimination in communities rather than fueling such social ills just to win votes. Deliver on your Constitutional mandate.

CoRMSA further calls upon the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to monitor the behaviour and public statements of political leaders to make sure that the behavior is within the IEC Code of Conduct of not promoting hate speech, fueling violence and statements which are discriminatory in nature. There has to be consequences for such infringements. CoRMSA also calls upon the South African Human Rights Commission to make sure that political statements are free from xenophobia and racism. Such statements only create a space where violence flourishes.

For further information, please contact:  Ms Abigail Dawson on 074 851 5683/011 403 7560 

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