Monday, 20 February 2017
The South African Human Rights Commission (the Commission) is deeply concerned with reports of escalating incidents of violence directed at foreign nationals and of destruction of property. Media reports indicate that at least three houses were destroyed as a result of community violence in Pretoria West over the weekend and a further twelve had been destroyed in Rosettenville, Johannesburg in the preceding week. New reports indicate that thirty shops were damaged and looted in Atteridgeville and Lotus Gardens late on 20 February 2017.
The Commission wishes to express strong condemnation for such acts of violence. Such incidents violate human rights and leave entire families homeless and destitute and do not afford due process such as arrest, trial and defense for those accused by communities.
In addition to the destruction of property, reports also state that violence was directed against foreign nationals. We understand that the police are still investigating the facts relating to the two incidents and would wait until the investigation yields more information. The Commission is against and condemns any violent attacks on persons on the basis that they are foreign nationals and any destruction of property as both violate human rights of people, despite the reason.
Communities in both cities have cited their concerns with high levels of crime linked to drugs and an alleged failure of the South African Police Service (SAPS) to respond adequately. The Commission recognises the negative impact that crime has on communities and calls upon the SAPS to actively and effectively police and investigate the crimes communities have highlighted in their ongoing complaints.
The Commission however calls on communities across South Africa to refrain from taking the law into their own hands. The Commission further calls on the SAPS, in an effort to restore calm and maintain the rule of law to communities across South Africa, to increase their visibility and accessibility in affected areas as well as those of concern.
The right to Equality as enshrined in Chapter Two of our Constitution – the Bill of Rights - at Section 9 (4) states that, no person may unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on the grounds of ethnic or social origin, culture, language and birth, amongst many other grounds. The Commission thus wishes to re-iterate that any attacks under the guise of crime prevention, aimed at a particular vulnerable group, on the basis of their birth outside of South Africa is an infringement of these rights as enshrined in our Constitution.
The Commission calls on all South Africans to reflect the spirit of our Constitution in all our dealing with people of all nationalities, and re-iterate its commitment to a society based in the rule of law and respect of fundamental human rights. We ask that the relevant authorities to intervene to allay the communities’ concerns related to crime. We further ask that leaders within these communities take a stance against xenophobia and display the leadership necessary to create social cohesion and safe communities for all.
Issued by the South African Human Rights Commission