There are strong indications that xenophobic attack on foreign nationals is rearing its ugly head in Gauteng Province and some other areas in the country.
The tell-tale signs which have so far played out in full public view include a flare-up of attacks on foreign-owned residences and businesses, the registration of an explicitly xenophobic political party and an anti-foreigner march planned for Friday in central Pretoria.
BuzzSouthAfrica understands that the march is being organized by Mamelodi Concerned Residents. A group alleging that Nigerians, Pakistanis, Zimbabweans and others have destroyed the city of Johannesburg and Pretoria.
They insist that these foreign nationals have “hijacked our buildings, sell drugs; inject young South African ladies with drugs and sell them as prostitutes. How is that helping us? They have destroyed our beloved Johannesburg, now they are destroying Pretoria.”
The group aims to visit the departments of Home Affairs, Labour and Police to express their grievances against foreign nationals.
Organizer Makgoka Lekganyane said they want the government to deport foreign nationals who are selling drugs and those involved in human trafficking.
“Home Affairs must deport people who are selling drugs and selling young women as sex slaves. We have never had these things in South Africa.”
However, Tshwane mayor Solly Msimanga, on Monday, assured reporters that the city is “alive to the situation” and will be meeting with provincial police and the Gauteng MEC for Community Safety to “collaborate on a problem that is a challenge to the entire province”.
He condemned the violent and xenophobic calls to community leaders to violently and unlawfully persecute foreign nationals within the city. Msimanga vowed to use law enforcement to subdue and bring perpetrators to book.
Businesses belonging to foreign nationals in Pretoria West and Mamelodi were looted on Monday night and Tuesday.
Police spokesperson Captain Bonginkosi Msimango said the looting started at 8pm on Monday in Atteridgeville.
He added: “The situation was very tense. The looting escalated to Lotus Gardens at about 9pm, where shops were emptied out. It became uncontrollable in a short space of time, but we managed to calm the situation.”
Over the weekend, residents burnt down two houses believed to be drug dens and brothels operated by foreign nationals in Pretoria West.
Meanwhile, the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference and the Justice and Peace Commission has called for calm and control amid fears that the planned march could spark xenophobic attacks.
Chairperson Bishop Abel Gabuza said the planned march against foreigners in Pretoria is cause for serious concern. He called on the government to urgently weigh in on the matter.
Many human activists have cited comments made by Johannesburg’s mayor Herman Mashaba in December, as the cause of the rising tide of public xenophobia. Mashaba had equated immigrants living in the country to ‘criminals’.
Despite South Africa being beset by racial inequality and high unemployment, the country has long been a magnet for migrants from around Africa, and beyond, because of its progressive laws, porous borders, and advanced economy.
During the 2015 xenophobic violence that erupted in Durban and Johannesburg, at least seven people died while thousands were prompted to flee. Another outbreak of violence in 2008 left at least 67 people dead.
Till now, the government has not made any public pronouncements on the attacks neither has it issued a statement.
The big question this time is: will the government continue to fold its arms until more immigrants pay the price?