SA Police Accused of Negligence over Xenophobis Attacks

sa_police_burning_shackIn its quest to achieve freedom and justice for foreigners in South Africa, the Amnesty International South bAfrica[AISA] has joined ranks with many organisations in accusing the South African Police Service[SAPS] for being negligent as the xenophobic attacks spread in South Africa.

In its latest issue of the Wire the bAISA says some of the people shot dead in the violent attacks last year in Durban were asylum seekers and refugees from Zimbabwe and Tanzania.The foreiners were killed while the police were4 watching says AI.

“Despite the fact that the nearest police station was only moments away the police did not intervene until the attackers had left.There is no evidence that the police have been called to account for their failure to protect life,”says the Wire.

The shooting spree forced residents of a building known as Venture Africa to hide in Bathrooms and under beds to escape the gangs.

Amnesty International says eyewitnesses report that the armed crowd marched past the police station chanting slogans and carrying weapons in full view of the police.The police, says the Wire, never made any attempt to stop or question the gang and it said when some people cried for help from the officers the police replied with a cold shoulder.

“The attack was reportedly part of a community crime fighting initiative led by the local municipal ward councillor.Following a public outcry, four men including the ward councillor were brought to trial on charges of public violence.One was also charged with attempted murder.

“Civil society organisations in Durban have called for police to be held to account for their failure to intervene and have complained of a parttern of discrimination against foreign nationals,” says the AISA review.

Meanwhile, as the search for the causes of xenophobic attacks and attitudes progresses,the South African Human Rights Commission remains one of the latest victims caught up in the blame game says the Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa[Cormsa].

A good number of organisations and individuals have blamed the au8thorities in South Africaq for not acting swiftly to quell violence on foreigners most of whom are Zimbabweans and prevent similar scenes in future.To date no positive action has been taken.

Following gthe inaction, Cormsa requested SAHRC to intervene by setting up a commission of inquiry into the attacks that saw scores dead and others displaced but that fell onh deaf ears.

Cormsa said recently the lack of ligitimately elected local leadership was behind much of the xenophobic attacks.It said in many areas local leaders were actively involved in fueling the skirmishes.

To curb the violence which continues albeit at6 a lower level, Cormsa insists it is necessary to identify and address the root causes.

It sounds ironic that violent attacks on foreigners are the order of the day in a country where most of its leaders spent years in exile overseas and other African cou8ntries including Zimbabwe.

In one of his famous speeches against xenophobia in May 2001, the former President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki said in part:”Our intimate relationship with the rest of our continent is illustrated by the significant nhumber of fellow Africans who have sought to settle in South Africa since 1994.Undoubtedly this trend will continue addiing new richness to our society.

“Many bring with them important skills that our country needs.Many of them also are people who9 are creative full of initiativge and driven by an enterprising spiri9t.

“The more they impart these characteristics to us as well the better we will be.Necessarily we continue to be vigilant against any evidence of xenophobia against the4 African immigrants.

We should also never forget that the same people welcomed us to their own countries when many of our citizens had to go into exile as a result of the brutality of the apartheid system.To express the critical importance of Africa to ourselves both black and white we should say that we are African or we are nothing.”

Hoever, towards the end of Mbeki’s second term in office,xenophobic violence occurred in 2008 and culprits are yet to be punished.

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