THE Archbishop of Cape Town, the Most Revd Thabo Makgoba, has
called for an end to a wave of attacks on migrant workers in South
Africa. He urged Christians to unite against the violence in a
series of vigils and rallies, which culminate in a march today.
"Please join me in your numbers. Please pray for an end to
xenophobia, and for tolerance. Let us be voices of reason,
acknowledging the anxiety and desperation which leads to attacks on
foreigners," he said.
"Let us look at sustainable ways of removing the conditions
which cause these attacks, and each commit ourselves to one act of
witness to change the situation."
Seven people have died in the violence in recent weeks, and up
to 5000 are thought to have fled their homes.
Up to ten per cent of the population of South Africa is made up
of immigrants from across the continent, including Zimbabwe,
Somalia, Ethiopia, and Malawi.
Many migrants have fled their homes, and are living in temporary
camps. Some are staying in a transit camp outside Christ Church, in
Mayfair, a suburb of Johannesburg.
The South African charity Gift of the Givers, which set up the
camp in Mayfair, said that the response to requests for help had
been "absolutely sensational and heart warming".
"It reaffirms that we are a caring nation driven by
ubuntu [human kindness] and spirituality, and that the
xenophobic attacks are not in keeping or acceptable to our inherent
capacity of goodness," it said.
The violence began last month, after an apparent labour dispute
involving South African and foreign workers in KwaZulu-Natal
province. The unrest was fuelled by comments made by the chief of
the Zulu ethnic group, King Goodwill Zwelithini, who was reported
to have said that "foreigners must pack their bags and go
This week, however, he said that his words had been distorted,
and he appealed for calm. In a speech to a packed stadium in
Durban, on Monday, he said: "We need to make sure no more
foreigners are attacked. If it were true that I said foreigners
must go, this country would be up in flames."
One of those murdered was a Mozambican national, who was stabbed
to death on a street corner.
The attacks have sparked an angry backlash across the rest of
the continent. In Mozambique last week, a group of about 200
protesters blockaded the southern Lebombo border, and stoned South
The energy and chemical company Sasol evacuated 340 South
Africans from Mozambique, over fears for their safety. In Zambia, a
privately owned radio station has stopped playing South African
music in protest; and Zimbabwe has sent buses to collect its
The President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, cancelled a state
visit to Indonesia to deal with the crisis. He visited one of the
camps in the Durban suburb of Chatsworth, where more than 1000
foreign nationals are sleeping in tents and relying on volunteers
for food. Many were boarding buses to return to Malawi, Zimbabwe,
and other home countries.
He told those who had left their homes that he wanted people to
live side by side, "as sisters and brothers".
The refugee agency UNHCR said that it was "extremely concerned"
by the violence.
Its spokesman said: "Those affected in these xenophobic attacks
are refugees and asylum-seekers who were forced to leave their own
countries due to war and persecution. They are in South Africa
because they require protection."