The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation is extremely worried about the situation that has been unfolding in various parts of Gauteng since Sunday.
The brazen looting, pillaging, violence, thuggery and xenophobia should draw our collective condemnation.
The Foundation urges community, faith-based, organisational and political leaders to speak out against the lawlessness that has engulfed certain parts of Johannesburg, Tshwane and the East Rand.
We believe that there is a strong need to call for calm, but to also assert moral authority and condemn the blatant acts of criminality.
We note the call for level-headedness by the South African Council of Churches’ Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana in the wake of the flaring tensions, as well as efforts by Lawyers for Human Rights to convene an urgent meeting to address issues.
We appeal to law enforcement agencies to act decisively and arrest those involved in breaking into shops, stealing off the shelves and destroying property. At the same time, crime intelligence should step up efforts to ensure that the ring leaders and networks that may be behind the attacks are identified and rounded up. We also urge government officials within the city and province, as well as nationally, to take the necessary decisions to restore order.
That these attacks have been primarily targeted at foreign nationals once again raises serious questions about our country’s inability to deal with xenophobia. Leaders across party-political lines are called on to desist from populist, nationalist rhetoric that further inflames anti-foreigner sentiment.
We cannot continue speaking in a manner that seeks to criminalise foreign nationals, when the potential for loss of life, injury and destruction stares us in the face.
The kind of narratives fueling attacks on foreign nationals should be a deep source of shame for a society, that through the experience of apartheid, knows firsthand the consequences of bias and prejudice.
While the Foundation is cognisant of the myriad challenges faced by communities, it is truly deplorable that violence, arson, looting and hate become the mechanisms we use to address issues.
We are aware that while some of the mob attacks may be spontaneous, we should however question if there is a more organised and coordinated hand at work.
The anarchy on the streets of Johannesburg, Tembisa and Germiston, follow close on the heels of similar chaos in Tshwane. It also comes in the wake of sustained attacks within the trucking industry, particularly against drivers from other countries.
We call on the government and the intelligence services to probe possible underlying factors contributing to the spread of the violence.
These attacks have the possibility of giving rise to further economic instability. This is something that we can ill-afford, just as the country gets to grips dealing with an economy decimated by years of corruption, state capture and poor governance.