Oxfam South Africa against recent xenophobia attacks

Thursday, September 5, 2019

South Africa is being honoured by African heads of States at World Economic Forum for Africa in Cape Town this week, while there is no peace in our land. We do not deserve this honour as we cannot provide safety to our most vulnerable members of society - children, women and migrant workers, refugees, asylum seekers - especially those from other parts of our home continent Africa. As an organisation that is a majority women and a diverse team of Africans, we are outraged and deeply saddened by the current spate of violence targeting women, girl children and Africans from other parts of our continent.  
Oxfam South Africa was founded on a deep commitment to a South Africa that is safe and just for women and all, and an Africa that is a home to all Africans. We understand that our fate as a continent is materially and politically intertwined in ways we cannot untangle. We have a shared destiny and a historical obligation to embrace each other and forge a common humanity or perish. Like it or not, in this new dispensation, South African-ness can no longer be defined by the passport one carries. South Africa has an obligation to uphold its commitments under international law, and to honour those it has made as a member of the African family of nations. The failure to uphold these obligations by South Africa is a violent betrayal of its own constitution, as well as its moral standing in the eyes of the people of our continent. 
“Each time the country fails to act decisively on violence against women, and against endemic Afrophobia, it allows the culture of impunity to embed itself”, said Siphokazi Mthathi, Executive Director at Oxfam South Africa. 
“We mourn the loss of lives in various incidents of rape and femicide that have been happening across the country. We mourn the loss of our freedom of movement as women and gender non-confirming people who are now in fear of moving freely in case we are attacked in our homes, on the streets, in Post Offices, everywhere in South Africa”, Mthathi added.
We condemn in the strongest possible terms, the targeting of our brothers and sisters from other parts of our continent for violent expression of disgruntlement that has nothing to do with them. Studies after studies have shown that there is absolutely no basis for the claims that other Africans come to take anything away from South Africans. What is indisputable is that South Africa owes its stability and economic development as much to the labour of its most exploited, as it does the solidarity and labour of Africans in many parts of our continent. We mourn the loss of lives, homes and livelihoods of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees in the recent spates of xenophobic attacks and looting across our cities and townships. We stand in solidarity with their families and loved ones and join hands with those who are standing up to demand accountability from the South African state and want to rebuild unity and tolerance in our communities.  
We are outraged by some of the actions of the men of South Africa who are killing women and children with impunity, exploiting the pitfalls of a society and judicial system that regularly fails us. We are outraged and ashamed of the actions of South Africans who violently attack the homes, businesses and lives of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees knowing there will be no consequences for their violent actions. 
We also condemn accounts of attacks on South African community members trying to protect their neighbours as well as threats against community organisations and damage to their property by violent looters. 
Yesterday, Oxfam launched a report on fighting inequality in Africa titled, 'A Tale of Two Continents' mindful that the effects of inequality were playing themselves out in the violence seen on our streets and homes against children, women, migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. Inequality is a known threat to peaceful co-existence, healthy social relations and stability. Widespread joblessness, an ineffective police service and judicial system, and a weakening economy has led to a cocktail of anger and frustration being taken out on society’s most vulnerable, a response that cannot be tolerated. South Africa is not the only country with problems in our continent and violence of any form can never be excused. 
At Oxfam South Africa, we have been part of initiatives including dialogues around Gender Based Violence (GBV) and the development of the National Strategy Plan for GBV. The dialogues being coordinated through the Presidency and the GBV task force must be scaled up. 
The continued escalation of violence against women is a call to every South African person to seize the opportunity for a deep process to co-create a People’s National Plan on Gender Based Violence. It’s time to make every home, workplace, street, university, church, mosque, synagogue, shebeen and media house a cite of resistance against the culture of men’s violence against women and children, said Sipho Mthathi.  
Violent opportunists will not stop fanning the flames of violent xenophobia until they know the state will not tolerate it. So long as political leaders and state institutions give mixed messages and are themselves guilty of promoting xenophobic attitudes, this violence will continue. 
Whilst addressing these ugly twins of violence must become a broad societal effort, we urge the government and its institutions to lead a national effort that educates communities on the rights of refugees and asylum seekers in South Africa and acts boldly to hold perpetrators of this kind of violence accountable. The kind of lawlessness taking place in South African streets require a decisive, co-ordinated role by state institutions not tweets and symbolic engagement by Ministers, added Mthathi. 
As a partner of the Disaster Management Centres, we continue to monitor the situation and see ways in which to contribute to national disaster relief efforts emanating from the xenophobic violence. 
As progressive Africans, we must embark on a genuine conversation about what it means that as a people we have a shared destiny and how to seize this as an opportunity rather than through platitudes on Africa day and divisive and violent behaviours resisting a trend we cannot reverse, Mthathi added.  
For more information, interviews and related media relations queries contact:
Oxfam South Africa   Media and Communications  Asanda Ngoasheng 

Mobile: +27 (0)82 610 9374 

Email: asanda.ngoasheng@oxfam.org.za