Johannesburg: This Union continues to be alarmed at the growing number of violent attacks on foreign nationals, of which recent events in Thokozo in Ekurhuleni is an example. The burning down of small businesses in our townships, and the physical and verbal attacks visited upon their proprietors is a shocking indictment of the state of our poorer communities, and the actions of a minority of clearly desperate but misguided people.
There is considerable evidence that these attacks are being orchestrated by those who are unwilling to compete fairly with new arrivals, who by their ingenuity, collective buying strategies and willingness to open premises for extremely long hours have challenged local monopolies who often overcharge.
To use the vehicle of xenophobia to close down the businesses of new arrivals in order to regain market share is tantamount to gangsterism, and must be opposed by all those seeking community harmony. It is clear that many of the new arrivals come to South Africa not to become millionaires, but to make a modest living in the community retail sector as a means to escape the ravages and poverty of their own countries.
At the same time that these attacks are being engineered in our communities, the police and security agencies have been aiding and abetting xenophobic sentiment by targeting those communities who have become organised and prepared to stand up for their rights. In an unprecedented move, the police launched a series of mass arrests last week of more than 100 democratic activists from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) who have vociferously but legally campaigned to challenge the outcomes of the elections in the DRC and what they saw as the collusion of the ANC Government in endorsing a fatally flawed electoral process. To mobilise the police in this manner, to curtail the democratic protests of people protected by the South African Constitution is a very worrying development indeed.
To allow the daily vilification of Africans from Nigeria, Somalia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique or wherever, will only serve to derail the struggle that needs to be waged for a genuine democratic, and a socialist Africa.
We urge the powers that be at Local Government level to break from their ‘business as usual' approach, and take the struggle against xenophobia into the heartlands of our people. Provide opportunities for inclusive community building, and strengthen local democracy and accountability. We urge our ANC Government to develop bold measures to strengthen the unity of our continent as a whole.
We urge all of our sister unions to redouble their efforts to engage and defend all communities who are struggling against xenophobia, super-exploitation and all forms of discrimination and oppression. We ask them to reach out and make the connections nationally and globally so that we can rebuild vital linkages. 2012 provides a golden opportunity through the COSATU, SACP and ANC congresses to re-assert a programme of action that is based on the universal aspirations of the Freedom Charter, and to provide a beacon for the oppressed everywhere.
* Statement issued by Tahir Sema, SAMWU National Media and Publicity Officer, January 26 2012