South Africa: Xenophobic violence condemned

"It is a sad day for South Africa when we see our brothers and sisters from other countries being attacked, killed and injured in our communities and streets", a May 21 statement by the South African Anti-Privatisation Forum (APF) stated, in response to the wave of violent attacks against foreigners in the townships and working class suburbs around Johannesburg.

According to the UN Integrated Regional Information Networks, as of May 19, the death toll has risen to at least 32.

The APF stated: "We want a country where everyone can enjoy our hard-won freedoms, where everyone has a job, a decent place to live and where we do not have to struggle for the basic necessities of life."

The APF argued it is wrong to blame the problems of poor South Africans on "those from other countries who live in our communities and who are also poor and fighting for the same things". Rather this is caused by the neoliberal, anti-poor policies of "corrupt councillors, greedy capitalists and an ANC government that has forgotten the poor".

The Congress of South African Trade Unions argued that it was "shocking and disturbing to see that some workers and residents of poor communities believe" their problems "are caused by foreign nationals ... who are themselves victims of the same unemployment, poverty and crime". COSATU pointed to the legacy of Apartheid as a major factor behind ongoing suffering of South Africa's poor.

COSATU pointed out it is "fighting a daily battle" against "unscrupulous employers" for decent wages and conditions. "We must place the blame on their shoulders, not those of their desperate, exploited workers, and present a united front" to win workers' rights.

A May 21 statement by the South African Communist Party argued that the attacks "must be strongly condemned by all South Africans". However, "it is not enough merely to express our strongest possible condemnations; we need to take strong and visible action" against the attacks.

The Social Movements Indaba released a statement announcing it "is mobilising social movements, immigrant communities, NGOs, unions, concerned residents from poor areas" for a demonstration rejecting the attacks and xenophobia for May 24. "The message marchers will be conveying is that our struggle is common and knows no borders."

[Visit to read full statements from a range of South African organisations on the attacks.]