Tuesday, June 10, 2008
African Leaders shocked by Anti Immigrant Violence.
The African continent is “shocked’’ by the xenophobic attacks in South Africa, declared African Union President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania, after a meeting of African heads of state examining the project for a Pan-African government.
Images of looting, burnings, destruction of shacks and beatings of defenseless immigrants from Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Nigeria, Somalia, among other countries, have filled newspapers and television continent-wide. The unexpected violence has left at least 50 dead, hundreds injured and tens of thousands homeless or displaced from Johannesburg and other South African cities.
Speaking out against the attacks, Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa recalled that the freedom of South Africa was achieved as a collective effort by South Africa and its neighboring countries. He appealed to South Africans to reflect on the unity that is talked about and promoted in Africa, adding that the South African government has laws to deal with illegal immigrants.
Mozambican President Armando Guebuza Thursday called on Mozambicans not to react with hatred to the wave of mob violence.
Meanwhile, Cape Town has been on a knife-edge after anti-immigrant violence reached the port city where angry mobs attacked Somalians and Zimbabweans and looted their homes and shops.
Ironically, South Africa marked Africa Day on Sunday in Johannesburg under the banner “united in diversity.” Within sight of the stage, however, was Central Methodist Church, sheltering some 2,000 Zimbabweans, barricaded inside against the gangs who have been terrorizing refugees.
“It is almost as though the South African authorities want this to happen,” said Anderson Ingwe, 28, a car mechanic. If that is so, then they should just say peacefully: ‘You are not welcome, Zimbabweans. Now go home.’
Critics are faulting President Thabo Mbeki for failing to visit any of the trouble spots. Calls for his resignation appeared this weekend in The Sunday Times and other local papers.
Meanwhile, taking a stand against violence, some 5,000 people from non-governmental organizations, communities affected by the violence and social-movement groups joined an anti-xenophobia protest in central Johannesburg and the suburb of Hillbrow Sunday. The protesters delivered a memorandum to the provincial government demanding security for foreigners and humanitarian support.
South Africa, with a population of 48.5 million, has a shortfall of 2.4 million houses and one in four South Africans doesn’t have a job