Issued by GCAP-SA, 15 May 2008

We, the Global Call to Action Against Poverty Coalition of South Africa (GCAP), (SANGOCO; SACC, NALEDI)  are alarmed by the recent xenophobic acts leveled against African immigrants in Alexandra.  This was a historical melting pot community, composed of a diversity of cultures, races, and nationalities.  To see the current divisions expressed violently demonstrates a lack of tolerance and humanity in our society.

While poverty is often pointed to as a cause of crime, to take your neighbor’s life because of perceived competition for jobs or resources makes it clear that there is a need for education about the structural causes of poverty and inequality.  Too many South Africans are blaming immigrants and refugees for economic ills and shortages of skills in their own societies, which are in fact caused by historical inequalities and government policies that have failed to address them adequately.  In the long run, SA needs to be far more practical and effective in ensuring development across the region. More immediately, we require a major effort to receive migrants, meet their immediate economic and social needs and protect their rights.

Taking the lives of people who are labeled ‘foreigners’, has not redressed the issue of poverty and economic injustice for the perpetrator, nor has it developed their skills to make them more competitive in the job market.  The levels of violence has escalated to not only foreigners being targeted, but also fellow South Africans, who are perceived as not having a ‘right’ to be in Gauteng from Limpopo or other provinces.   Gauteng  is a province that has been built by migrants since its inception, and has been greatly enriched by the skills they have brought.

The violent, xenophobic attack on foreigners taking place in Alexandra this week and those which have occurred previously in Diepsloot, Atteridgeville and elsewhere must be condemned unconditionally. It is such an urgent matter that we shall be adding it to the issues to be raised on the marches.

The underlying causes of xenophobia are the intolerable level of poverty, unemployment and crime, and the shortage of housing, in poor communities. People’s frustration is understandable but there can be no excuse for placing and blame for these problems on immigrants who have been forced to flee from even worse conditions in other parts of Africa , especially Zimbabwe . The poor working-class South African and immigrant people have a common interest in fighting to improve their conditions and fighting each other will only make the problems even worse

The need for an inclusive, nation building project that respects diversity, dignity, and human rights is essential to combat the current social ills of crime, poverty, and xenophobia.  While unity needs to happen at a community level, it should be supported by government policies that provide support structures for the poor, that pioneer economic and gender justice in rural and urban areas, and that protect all who live in South Africa .

We call on all South Africans to practice tolerance, acceptance, and inclusion and to work together to build communities regardless any differences.