FOREIGN nationals who marched to the Union Buildings alongside Coalition of Civics Against Xenophobia on Thursday to call for an end to xenophobic attacks have accused the government of being behind the attacks.
Prince Mapinda, who was representing Congolese nationals, said government’s refusal to send anyone to accept their memorandum was an indication that it approves of attacks on foreign nationals.
“They [government] approved an anti-foreign march recently but today when we had solidarity with many South Africans to say no to xenophobia they didn’t accept our memorandum. We want the world and South Africans to know we blame the government for the attacks. Their refusal and arrogance shows that they are behind xenophobic outbreaks in Gauteng,” Mapinda said.
About 200 people marched to the Union Buildings under the banner of a united front to show solidarity to foreign nationals being attacked in the country. The march was, however, declared illegal by the Tshwane Metro Police Department.
Spokesperson Senior Superintendent Isaac Mahamba said they did not approve it as they could not get a signed letter from the recipient of the memorandum.
“Yesterday [Wednesday] they took us to court and lost the case. We waited for them to gather this morning and declared their gathering illegal. We opened a case against them of illegal gathering,” Mahamba said.
The sporadic attacks on foreign nationals have seen many displaced and having to leave their businesses to seek refuge elsewhere. The attacks have affected some South African businesses operating in other African countries.
Cellphone giant MTN’s offices were attacked in Nigeria following the attacks in the country. Mapinda said following Thursday’s march, they would be meeting with businesses and ambassadors to urge the government to act.
“We will be meeting with South African businesses and investors doing business outside the country to put pressure on the government to stop xenophobic attacks. We don’t want to see instances of backlash in our countries as a result of what happens here,” he said.
Mapinda said the march was also to call on the government to act against those foreigners involved in crime. He said they did not support crime and wanted to see criminals being prosecuted. He also said the government must deliver basic services to the people.
“Locals are frustrated by a lack of service delivery and they are taking it out on the wrong people,” he said.
The Student Movement which was part of the march also expressed dissatisfaction with government’s failure to accept the memorandum.
Spokesperson Vusi Mahlangu said he found it odd that government would refuse to accept the memorandum after granting permission for a pro-xenophobia March.
“We were highly disgusted when protesters were informed on arrival at the Union Buildings that the Presidency sent no one to receive the memorandum. This is so interesting because on the 24th of February 2017 the Presidency received a memorandum from an openly “pro-xenophobia” group,” Mahlangu said. “So this government is prepared to give attention to self-declared hooligans but decided to ignore peaceful and progressive citizens. Is this not a demonstration that the government is xenophobic?”
Zimbabwean national Malito Benyera echoed Mahlangu and Mapinda’s the sentiments, saying it was amazing how the Mamelodi Concerned Citizens got permission for a march which incited violence against foreigners and they couldn’t get approval.
Organiser of the march, Themba Ncalo, said being peaceful did not yield the required results and they would be going back to the drawing board. He said they would occupy all the highways leading into Tshwane in the next two weeks.
“We tried a peaceful march but clearly the government doesn’t respond to that. So we are going to speak in a language they understand,” he said.