‘Xenophobic Attacks Not Our Culture’

The former South African president’s foundation has issued a statement, condemning a spate of fatal attacks on Africans in the country. So far, 10 people have been killed by South Africans after they accused Africans from elsewhere of taking their “jobs and invading their country with crimes.” The attacks were said to have been fueled by Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini.

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The Thabo Mbeki Foundation (TMF) has noted with grave concern, the ongoing attacks on fellow Africans – and other foreign nationals – from beyond our borders resident in our country.

As is our moral and political obligation, we join millions of South Africans in unequivocal condemnation of this criminality and commend efforts by the government to bring it to an end.

The attacks, some of which have resulted in deaths, injuries and damage to property offend not only the human dignity of the victims, but that of the vast majority of South Africans.

We call on those of our fellow nationals who are participants in these base misdeeds to stop!

Most importantly, we also call on members of our communities to work together with the South African Police Service, the government as a whole and community organisations that are involved in efforts to stop the attacks.

To our fellow Africans, we would like them to know that these actions by a few among us do not reflect the South African character. Long before the discovery of diamonds and gold, this part of Africa has always welcomed migrants from elsewhere on the continent and further afield.

The discovery of gold in the Witwatersrand in 1886 brought together Africans from all over the region to work in the mines and other industries. The descendants of these immigrants have, over the centuries, integrated into our society as South Africans and played an important role in the development of South Africa.

Limiting ourselves only to those who came from around the continent, we recall, with immense pride of our national and common African heritage, the contribution of Clements Kadalie, a Malawian by origin who established the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union in 1919, Nobel Laureate Chief Albert Luthuli and Thomas Nkobi, both originally from Zimbabwe but who made enormous contributions to the struggle against apartheid.

The TMF believes that our country is challenged to engage in conversation about all elements that relate to this subject matter. Beyond the fundamental task of working as a nation to achieve a better life for all our people, on which we embarked in 1994, and which we know will still take time, these include:

• ‪an‬ education curriculum that is unashamedly African; one that exposes young Africans to the continent’s contribution to human civilisation and promotes the understanding that like any people and peoples, as Africans, we sink or swim together!

• an examination by our media, especially the public broadcaster, of their output and the extent to which it promotes national and continental objectives on such matters as non-racialism, non-sexism, national cohesion and the African renaissance;

• ‪‎the‬ promotion of a common national patriotism based on commitment to the inclusive values espoused in the constitution. Narrow and exclusive identity constructs are not imbued with the qualities of the Pan African spirit we need in dealing with the ongoing attacks on fellow Africans and others; and,

• ‪‎expunging‬ from our discourse, bigoted language such as “Makwerekwere” and seemingly benign but unhelpful clichés that we often hear about, for example, that of South Africa as a “Gateway to Africa,” as though we were somewhere outside and far away from the African Continent”.


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