Thursday, 23 February 2017
The South African Human Rights Commission the (Commission) has communicated its deep concern regarding media reports of escalating violence directed at foreign nationals and the destruction of property in Johannesburg and Pretoria. The Commission further notes media reports of a march against foreign nationals, planned to take place on Friday, 24 February 2017, in central Pretoria.
The concern of the Commission is heightened by information received that electronic communications via sms and WhatsApp, that could be construed as incitements to violence and/or violent confrontations, are being circulated in relation to the march that is planned for 24 February 2017.
The Commission has a constitutional mandate as set out in Section 184 of the Constitution to, amongst other duties, monitor and assess the observance of human rights in South Africa. The South African Human Rights Commission Act, 40 of 2013 provides the powers necessary to perform its mandate including the powers to, inter alia, investigate allegations of human rights violations, mediate or conciliate, and where appropriate, to litigate.
In accordance with its constitutional mandate, the Commission, as a matter of urgency, has written to the offices of the Member of the Executive Council (MEC) for Community Safety, Gauteng Province; the Mayor of the City of Johannesburg; the Mayor of the City of Tshwane; the Gauteng Provincial Commissioner of Police and the Premier of Gauteng Province and requested that the aforementioned offices provide a report on the urgent measures that will be put in place to prevent the escalation of further violence. Given the urgency of this matter, the Commission strongly urges these offices to provide it with a response by no later than 12:00 on Thursday, 23 February 2017.
The Commission re-iterates that an attack 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 the rights within our Constitution. The Commission once more appeals to community leaders to ensure due process is followed and that these communities address their concerns to the duly authorised authorities. Further, the Commission insists that the relevant authorities address and allay the concerns of the communities.
The Commission further wishes to emphasise that the planned march against foreign nationals sends a divisive message to our society as a whole and has the potential to counter the ongoing efforts to build a socially cohesive and inclusive South Africa.
Issued by the South African Human Rights Commission