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Church leaders shamed by ‘Afrophobic’ attack

14 April 2022


Diepsloot, a township near Johannesburg, where the attack took place

Diepsloot, a township near Johannesburg, where the attack took place

CHURCH leaders in South Africa have condemned the brutal killing of a Zimbabwean man by vigilantes thought to have been encouraged by Afrophobic (anti-African) sentiments that have been identified as on the rise in the country in recent months.

Eyewitnesses reported that Elvis Nyathi, a 43-year-old married father of four, was hunted down, attacked, and burnt to death, by a mob on Wednesday of last week. The attack took place in Diepsloot, a township near Johannesburg created after 1994, where many nationals from other African countries live.

The South African Council of Churches (SACC) extended its condolences to the Nyathi family, saying that its members hung their heads “in collective shame that things have come to this”.

The Council’s secretary-general, Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana, of the Ethiopian Episcopal Church, said that South Africans should be ashamed of the horrific killings of fellow human beings in recent years, which had been motivated merely by the fact that the victims came from elsewhere in Africa.

The Bishop recalled the “necklace” mob killings of suspected informers during the dying days of apartheid. “We cannot get back to those dark days of indiscriminate attacks of people. Yet here we are — perilously close to the point of regression into the abyss of our past.

“Only last month we warned that this growing tendency of community groups going on search parties to ‘smell out’ who they consider illegal foreigners will lead to deaths of people, as has happened at Diepsloot,” the Bishop said.

The Archbishop of Cape Town, Dr Thabo Makgoba, who is president of the SACC, worded a rest-in-peace message to the victim. “Our Ubuntu [humanity towards others] through your killing is being butchered in Diepsloot and many parts of the country. We are one regardless of colonial boundaries, all created in God’s image.”

In January, the SACC called for the establishment of such a national dialogue on “foreign nationals” working in South Africa. Last month, it announced a national indaba on Non-South African Persons in our Society and Economy, in which it will consult with groups in civil society and the government, before a forum at the end of June.

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