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Transforming Society

Securing Rights

Restoring Dignity

Media Statement: SAHRC Condemns Attacks on Non-Nationals

Monday, April 1, 2019

Attention: Editors

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC or the Commission) strongly condemns the recent attacks against non-nationals that have taken place in KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and other places.
On Tuesday, 26th March 2019, non-national migrants in Burnwood Informal Settlement (Durban), were physically attacked and forced out of their homes by a group of people who had identified themselves as “South African citizens”.  The attacks have led to the displacement of approximately 117 people and their families whose rights to equality, dignity and safety have been violated.

The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 (Constitution) is founded on the values of equality, human dignity and freedom. The right to equality is guaranteed in section 9, which further prohibits unfair discrimination on various grounds, including ethnic origin.  The value of human dignity informs the right to equality on the basis of ethnic origin.

Migrants, foreign nationals, and other individuals who seek refuge in South Africa, are entitled to all the rights and freedoms that are enshrined in the Constitution except for the right to vote. Accordingly fundamental human rights cannot be denied to anyone, regardless of their citizenship or ethnic origin.

The SAHRC’s mandate is to promote, protect, monitor and observe the human rights of all people in South Africa, including migrants.

On Friday 29th March 2019, the SAHRC conducted a site inspection at Burnwood Informal Settlement.  Based on reports to the SAHRC during the site inspection, the attacks on non-nationals were fueled by allegations that migrants were responsible for ‘providing cheap labour’, ‘stealing the wives of South African citizens’ and also ‘taking their jobs’.

Human rights are indivisible, interrelated, and interdependent; and discrimination against certain sectors of foreign nationals are inextricably tied to violations of other basic rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights.

Discrimination on the grounds of ethnic and social origin (‘xenophobia’) has consistently been one of the top three equality rights violations reported to the SAHRC since 2012, accounting for 4% of all equality related complaints reported to the SAHRC during 2016/2017.
Furthermore, the Commission has seen a significant increase in the number of complaints relating to economic and social rights (health care, food, water, and social security).  When added to the complaints relating to housing and education, it is clear the socio-economic rights violations outnumber the number of equality rights violations, and illustrate the interconnectedness of poverty, inequality and xenophobia.

Furthermore, poor communities – where attacks against foreign nationals occur most frequently – experience  higher levels of poverty, of slow or non-existent provision of basic service (local, provincial and national levels), and experience ineffective or dysfunctional local governance.

The Commission therefore cautions individuals, community leaders, and political leaders against exploiting the existing inequality, unemployment and poverty experienced by nationals and non-nationals, to fuel divisions and incite violent action between groups competing for the scarce resources.

The SAHRC strongly condemns the recent widespread attacks that have taken place in KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and other place, as well as all other forms of xenophobia, discrimination and abuse of migrants.  The SAHRC calls on all relevant stakeholders to work together in ensuring that the rights of this extremely vulnerable sector of our society is protected before, during and after the election period.

The SAHRC recommends that all political figures and stakeholders to be sensitive and considerate in their utterances and conduct as leaders play a pivotal role in fostering social cohesion in our society.  The SAHRC further calls on everyone within the Republic to actively protect the constitutional values of equality, human dignity and freedom, irrespective of social or ethnic origin.  The SAHRC is heartened by the response by members of the public who have extended help and support to affected communities and families affected by the recent spate of attacks.

The SAHRC will continue to monitor this situation closely to ensure that all affected migrants and their families receiving the necessary support and assistance.  Furthermore, Prof Bongani Majola, the Chairperson of the SAHRC, has requested an urgent engagement with the National Commissioner of South African Police Service in order to determine how best the SAPS and the SAHRC can collaborate in in order to deal with these attacks and threats efficiently and expeditiously.


Issued by the South African Human Rights Commission

Gail Smith – Spokesperson Tel: 060 988 3792 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Gushwell Brooks – Communications Co-ordinator Tel: 082 645 8573 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.




The South African Human Rights Commission.

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About us

The Human Rights Commission is the national institution established to support constitutional democracy. It is committed to promote respect for, observance of and protection of human rights for everyone without fear or favour.

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