Hundreds of foreign nationals gather at a park near the Sydenham Police Station soon after foreign nationals were displaced during xenophobic attacks in Durban on March 27, 2019 following violence against immigrants and other foreigners. Anti-foreigner violence began after locals accused foreigners of being employed by local companies. Most of the victims targeted were forced to leave their countries due to war and persecution PHOTO: RAJESH JANTILAL / AFP
The eThekwini municipality and the Malawi High Commission have been at pains to assure the public that the recent attacks on foreign nationals in Durban are motivated by criminal interests and are not xenophobic violence.
The Sydenham and Overport areas of Durban have been rocked by violence against foreign nationals, in at least two instances the victims were forced to take refuge in police stations.
The municipality and the high commission pointed to the theft of Malawians belongings as evidence that the incidents were criminally motivated.
A statement issued by eThekwini municipality read: “Both the municipality and the Malawian High Commission are in agreement that the incidents that led to Malawians nationals being chased out of their homes are not xenophobia but were criminally motivated as their belonging were stolen by the angry mob.”
Despite the denials eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede has urged leaders of all political parties to cease making populist statements that inflame xenophobia while on the campaign trail.
“No African is a foreigner in Africa and, as the municipality, we are committed to working together with organisations representing immigrants and civil society formations to deal with issues that cause tension between and among our people. During profiling, we discovered that most African immigrants are highly skilled artisans and we are looking at partnering with them in creating skills transfer and mentorship programmes that will target the youth,” Gumede said.
The mayor’s office arranged meeting with community leaders in the Burnwood informal settlements, where the attacks took place on Tuesday, and believes that it will be safe for Malawian nationals to return. She also called for the presence of Malawian migrants in community forums and policing programmes.
“It was also agreed during these meetings that leaders of foreign nationals should form part of community development forums in the area and the displaced foreign nationals should go back to their homes within the next 48 hours.
“However, a follow-up meeting will be held soon between the municipality, the Malawian High Commission and community of Burnwood informal settlement to welcome back the Malawian nationals,” said Gumede.
Malawi will help victims of xenophobic violence return home
Malawi’s acting high commissioner to South Africa Gloria Bamusi praised the efforts of the municipality but called on the police to improve their response times in such incidents.
Bamusi said: “We appeal to law enforcement agencies to respond rapidly whenever such instances occur. We also call for the perpetrators to be brought to book. We will work with the municipality to integrate our people back to the communities and make necessary arrangements for those who want to go back home to Malawi.