SAFTU is alarmed by the eruption of yet another wave of Xenophobic violence and attacks occurring in eThekwini. Foreign nationals from African countries have seen their trading goods set ablaze and being badly beaten. Reporting to the media, they note that these attacks are preceded by harassment in which they are required to pay a rogue fee and having their goods confiscated by these criminal elements.
These attacks are nothing but an expression of two things: the deteriorating socio-economic conditions for most of the working class and poor, and the criminal elements which also finds expression in the socio-economic problems.
Unemployment has risen to 42% in the last quarter of 2021, and it is now 60% amongst the youth. This unemployment trajectory has been developing in this way from the jobless growth of the Mbeki era, and now with stagnation of the economy, have ballooned to the figures never seen in the past 27 years.
In 2019, we pointed out that talks to develop the township economy by the successive ANC government, the poor development strategies of the Small Medium Enterprises department have failed to train, nurture and develop black owners of the spaza shops and small traders. Because of this failure to nurture and develop small traders have gone under immense pressure on two factors.
Firstly, the spaza owners had to buy their goods from inflated prices from the big commercial corporations. Inflated prices alone eats on the revenue and profitability of these spazas thus pushing them out of business. Lastly, the invasion of corporate shopping centres and malls in the township ate on the consumer base of the spazas with low sales of their prices occasionally. In the absence of government support and protection black South African spaza shop owners have gone out of business.
The total sum of these factors have created a desperate and frustrating situation for the pauperized sections of the working class – the unemployed – to blame the working class people from colonially induced countries for ‘taking their jobs and opportunities’ for small scale trading and business.
In addition to the economic factors causing these xenophobic attitudes and attacks is the failure of African revolution that is socialist in content, to have infused African nationalism and created class consciousness. As a result, without appreciating the common origin, common struggles we had against colonialists and the invaluable contribution made by these countries to our liberation struggle against apartheid, the frustrated working-class people attack the African and Asian brothers who are displaced from their countries because of imperialist induced regional conflicts and the abject poverty capitalism has put all working people of the world in.
SAFTU is also alarmed at the allegations that MKMVA soldiers are the ones involved in these attacks. MK was build, sponsored and supported by governments of other countries, and had its training camps setup in African countries. Though MKMVA KZN has distanced itself from the attacks, it would be a huge dishonour and shameful if indeed some of its members are involved in this. Thus, SAFTU calls on MKMVA to come out boldly condemning the attacks and Xenophobia in all its manifestations.
The continued eruption of the Xenophobic attacks, 13 years after the blood-paths of 2008 attacks proves government’s lack of seriousness to deal with the issue. It is as though, Xenophobia is a convenient buffer for the ANC government to account for its failure to give youth further education and training, and above all, employment. That, ‘let us evade accountability so long unemployed people blame foreign nationals for stealing their jobs and collapsed spaza shops blames their fall on the invasion of Somali, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi nationals.
Perpetrators commit such heinous crimes including destruction of property with impunity and killing of innocent people have not seen the ends of justice. When there is no law and order then it is the poorest that suffer. The rich can build walls, buy their security and it is people living in townships and informal settlements that suffer the consequences of such criminal acts of violence.
· We call on the government to account as to why it ignored the recommendations by the South African Human Rights Commission in 2009 to eradicate racism and xenophobia.
· We call on the State to establish mechanisms that can trigger a response when there are such outbreaks of xenophobic violence, there needs to be more civilian community policing to mitigate against the violence and looting that is taking place targeting foreign nationals and indeed all forms of violence including gender based violence and the violence of poverty!
· The neo-liberal economic policies of this government has plunged this country into a bloodbath of unemployment. We cannot blame our fellow African brothers and sisters for the crisis in South Africa. This crisis which is rooted in an excessive commodification and indeed privatization of basic necessities of life is a product of capitalism not of the fellow African and Asian poor working men and women.
· SAFTU calls on workers to denounce these acts of barbarism. Our federation espouses internationalism and reiterates that working men and women have no country.
· As internationalists, we have committed to raise consciousness of workers and fight against Xenophobia, and all forms of racism in South Africa.
· COVID has exposed that poverty and inequality are the evil twins that have bedeviled this country and has its roots in our colonial and racist past where the State legitimized and used brute force to repress and oppress Black African People.
Our task as the working class movement is to fight for the eradication of poverty, unemployment, and inequality for decent work, respect and dignity for all who live in South Africa and the world over.