South Africa: Protesters Call for Plan to Transform Johannesburg's Hostels

16 September 2019

Hundreds of people marched through Johannesburg on Saturday demanding an end to xenophobia and gender-based violence.

The route was supposed to take the marchers through Hillbrow but it was changed on the morning of the march because police said they had received intelligence that it was not safe. On Saturday protesters marched past Hillbrow, through Braamfontein, holding posters that read: "Migrants are not a threat", "We stand against xenophobia", "Human rights apply to all who live in SA" and "Queers against borders".

The march was organised by the People's Coalition against Xenophobia which includes civil society organisations, trade unions, community groups, migrant organisations and individual activists. It was prompted by the recent spate of xenophobic violence where a group of people looted and burnt mostly immigrant-owned shops in Gauteng.

The coalition demanded that the provincial government come up with a plan to address high levels of unemployment and related social ills.

Spokesperson of the National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa, Phakamile Hlubi-Majola, said people were living in poverty and inequality because of capitalism. "If we want to defeat xenophobia, we must defeat capitalism," she said.

The coalition said Premier David Makhura must provide a plan to transform all hostels -- where the violence was said to have started -- into family units. It said he should strongly condemn the violence and "call the violence what it is - xenophobia" instead of calling it "criminality". Makhura should also condemn Mayor Herman Mashaba and other politicians who used migrants as a scapegoat for the province's social ills, said the coalition.

The coalition said Makhura must hold the South African Police Service (SAPS) accountable for its failure to protect all people in Gauteng from violence. It said measures must be taken against corrupt SAPS officials who collude with criminals.

"We call on Makhura to work with Home Affairs to address the crisis of institutional xenophobia which has resulted in a paralysis of the asylum system," read the memorandum.

In a separate memorandum addressed to Mashaba, the coalition said the violence was not "criminality" but xenophobia, because the anger and frustration of South Africans and the state had been directed towards immigrants. The coalition demanded that Mashaba admit that his comments were xenophobic and contributed to the xenophobic violence.

The memorandum called for a Disaster Management plan to help people affected by the attacks.

The memorandum was received by representatives of the City and provincial government at Mary Fitzgerald Square.

Vasco De Gama, Speaker of Council, received the memorandum on behalf of Mashaba and the City. He said Mashaba and the City agreed that xenophobia is wrong and "we cannot allow this criminality".

He said one of the issues was that the country's borders were not secured properly and government departments were not doing what they were supposed to do to make sure citizens were safe.

A group of people in the crowd started chanting: "We are all citizens! We are all citizens!"

Dan Bovu received and signed the memorandum on behalf of Makhura and the provincial government.

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