South Africa

Battlefield Jozi

Migrants’ forum claims police were warned of impending xenophobic attacks

Head of the ADF, Dr Vusi Sibanda speaks about the recent attacks on migrants at the ADF press briefing in Johannesburg on the 03 September 2019. Photo by Chanel Retief

Violence continues for the second day in Johannesburg. The African Diaspora Forum, an umbrella body of the largest groups of migrant traders, has claimed that it gave intelligence to the police of this week’s impending attacks.

Dr Vusi Sibanda, who heads the African Diaspora Forum, would not name the police officers to whom information about impending xenophobic attacks had been given, but said the police had told the forum it was aware of the intelligence.

Video: Dr Vusi Sibanda

This information related to three organisations which motivated the attacks after migrant traders attacked the police in downtown Johannesburg at the end of July.

The three organisations are alleged to be the All Truck Drivers Foundation, which allegedly organises protests against foreign drivers who drive through South Africa; Respect South Africa, a nascent movement working in the inner city, and the Sisonke Peoples Forum.

Respect South Africa is claimed to have put out a WhatsApp message saying:

We have seen a video clip that went viral yesterday, where our police officers were brutally attacked in JHB CBD for the third time by foreign nationals… this alone can not be tolerated nor accepted…”.

The Sisonke Forum put out a statement reading:

Enough is Enough, on selling of drugs, on property theft, and on our work taken by foreign nationals.

We as the people who fought for this freedom, find no respect from the owners of the companies and what is going to happen on the 02 September 2019 is to show our dissatisfaction, and to use our right to vote by taking out foreign nationals from our work.”

The Diaspora Forum, which advocates peacebuilding, said, “It is important to note that that the current state of affairs could have been averted working together with both government and community at large, and the messages that preceded the attacks were very explicit and clear, enough could have been done.”

Shopkeepers who own stores in Johannesburg closed their shops on Tuesday, 03 September 2019, after looters targeted migrant areas in Johannesburg on Monday, 02 September 2019. Photo by Chanel Retief

The Johannesburg CBD remained shuttered in many parts on Tuesday 3 September as big stores such as Jet, food outlets such as Nando’s and many smaller, foreigner-owned outlets were closed for fear of further violence.

The streets of Maboneng are usually a social scene packed with people but was vacant on Tuesday (03 September 2019). This follows after looters targeted migrant- rich areas across Johannesburg on Monday the 2nd of September 2019. Photo by Chanel Retief

The Maboneng precinct, close to Jeppestown, the epicentre of the violence, was closed, as was the Oriental Plaza, the shopping centre in Fordsburg in the west of Johannesburg. The Plaza, as it is known, hardly ever closes shop. Parts of the highway were also closed on Monday and roads were closed by police as sporadic attacks continued to pockmark the city. By Tuesday afternoon, Daily Maverick’s mapping showed looting and violence in nine areas across the city.

An overview of all the areas affected by xenophobic looting and violence. Graphic Bernard Kotze

Areas around Joburg bore the brunt xenophobic looting and violence. Graphic Bernard Kotze

By Tuesday xenophobic looting and violence had spread to Alexandra and Tembisa. Graphic Bernard Kotze

The African Civil Revolutionary Forum, a South African radical movement, joined the Africa Diaspora Forum in denouncing the violence. It said that “nyaope boys” had capitalised on the attacks to join the looting. Police were kept busy on Tuesday as sporadic attacks continued across the city. More than 100 suspects were arrested and are expected to appear in court on Wednesday, 4 September.

The African Union condemned the attacks “in the strongest terms” in a statement by African Union Commission chairperson Moussa Faki. Although encouraged by the arrests, he called for further steps to protect people and property.

The African Diaspora Forum held a press briefing in Johannesburg on Tuesday to discuss the recent violent attacks on migrants across Johannesburg. Photo by Chanel Retief

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari instructed his foreign minister to summon the SA High Commissioner to Nigeria and despatched a special envoy to South Africa to meet with President Cyril Ramaphosa. The envoy was expected to arrive on Thursday, 5 September to express Buhari’s “displeasure over the treatment of her citizens; and assurance of the safety of their lives and property”. DM

NOTE: Daily Maverick tried to get a comment from Brigadier Vish Naidoo and will keep trying. We will update the story as it arrives.


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