Issued by the South African Human Rights Commission, 23 May 2008

On the eve of Africa Day, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) again condemns the ongoing xenophobic attacks against foreign nationals and those South Africans of different ethnicity.

What has happened in South African townships in the last couple days has betrayed the vision of the majority of South Africans who wanted to identify themselves with the vision that the founders of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) had for Africa.

When the Organisation of African Unity was established, it derived inspiration from key objectives and principles of contained in the United Nation (UN) Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The declaration provided a vision and laid down the basis for the attainment of fundamental human rights, and the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small.

As the continent celebrates this important day all sectors of the South African society namely: government, civil society, business and individual members of society, need to ask themselves whether they have done enough to translate the vision of the OAU into reality for both our compatriots and brothers and sisters from across the continent, given what is happening in our country at the moment.

Perhaps the commission's first annual Human Rights Development Report which was released yesterday has the answer. The report reveals that while a lot has been done to improve the well-being of people, South Africa is however still a country characterised by growing levels of poverty, deepening inequality, lack of access to information which is relevant to the enjoyment of human rights, violence against women and children, government's lack of respect for international human rights instruments, and growing racial and inter-ethnic intolerance.

For instance the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism last year advised the South African (SA) government to develop clear policy objectives and concrete programmes for the eradication of xenophobia. Further, the committee to International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination advised the government several years ago to enact Hate Crimes law in order to deal with hate crimes, xenophobia and racist behaviour, yet today none of these were done.

The commission also calls on the government to engage honestly with stakeholders on the Zimbabwean issue. The commission is of the view that the xenophobic attacks currently unfolding in the country are also as result of the crisis in that country.

In solidarity with all those affected by the violence of the last few days, the commission will participate in various marches against xenophobia which will take place around Johannesburg tomorrow.