WORDS BY ANNIE KELLY - www.anniekelly.co.uk
Foreign migrants and refugees in South Africa are being warned to prepare for a wave of xenophobic attacks as soon as the final whistle of the World Cup blows. This week, exactly two years after the start of the 2008 attacks which left 62 people dead in violent riots across South Africa, a consortium of leading migration organisations is predicting mass xenophobic violence as soon as the tournament is over.
CoRMSA, whose members include Amnesty International, the South African Red Cross Society and the Center for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, say they are receiving widespread reports by foreign nationals across the country that they are being threatened with violence after the World Cup.
“These threats are coming from many different people - neighbours, colleagues, taxi drivers, passers-by on the street, but also from nurses, social workers and police officers,” said a statement released by CoRMSA. “Some of those making the threats believe that they have the support of senior political leaders.”
Dozens of Zimbabwean women interviewed this week by The Guardian in Hillsborough, downtown Johannesburg, said that they are being intimidated and threatened on a daily basis by their landlords and groups of men who were gathering outside their homes at night. “They say they will come after the World Cup and they will kill us,” said Ethel Musonza, a 32-year old mother of four. “These people are serious, they are organised, they know where we live. They say they won’t do anything during the World Cup because of the foreign tourists but afterwards the police will step aside and some of us will get killed.”
In an informal settlement in the East Rand, groups of men who claim they took part in the “war” of 2008 say that foreign migrants and refugees should leave the country before 11th July. “We sat down and talked and said let’s leave them until the World Cup is coming to our country,” said one man who claims he took the law into his own hands to protect his country from foreigners in 2008. “If we fight now maybe they will stop 2010…after that there is no-one who can come to us and say don’t fight.”
CoRMSA is demanding that the government speak out publically against xenophobia to try and diffuse the risk of further violence after the football fans have gone home. It is also asking that the government maintain discipline within their own organisations so that officials who threaten violence against foreign nationals can be held to account.
On May 12, 2008 a series of riots started in the township of Alexandra in the north-east of Johannesburg targeting migrants from Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe. In the following weeks the violence spread to other informal settlements in the Gauteng Province and to Durban, Cape Town and then across the rest of the country. 62 people were killed, including 21 South African citizens.