The Nelson Mandela Foundation strongly condemns attacks on those perceived to be foreigners in South Africa. This is the latest manifestation of a phenomenon which has been troubling our democracy for a long time.
Our leadership from all sectors of society (Government leaders in all spheres, business leaders, civil society, and parents who are leaders in homes) must rise from their comfort and not just speak anti-xenophobic messages but act towards social cohesion and inclusion. Inaction in this matter will have far reaching implications for South Africa and set us back decades as a stable democracy.
The Foundation expresses shock and takes exception to the authorities’ decision giving permission for a march of hatred in Tshwane.
We call on all South Africans to take responsibility for embracing the hospitality that defines our democratic order and to work together to find solutions to a problem which is destroying lives and bringing South Africa shame internationally.
We remind South Africans of Nelson Mandela’s firm rejection of xenophobia. In 1995 he addressed a gathering in Alexandra and said:
“During the years I lived here, the people of Alexandra ignored tribal and ethnic distinctions. Instead of being Xhosas, or Sothos, or Zulus, or Shangaans, we were Alexandrans. We were one people, and we undermined the distinctions that the apartheid government tried so hard to impose. It saddens and angers me to see the rising hatred of foreigners.”
The Foundation’s Chief Executive Sello Hatang expresses his pain at the growing levels of ‘othering’ evident in South Africa:
“The measures of who belongs and who doesn’t that we see being thrown around so recklessly are deeply problematic. I myself am beginning to feel ‘othered’, as my father’s family has its roots in Lesotho and my mother’s in Botswana.”
The Foundation calls on all South Africans involved in the mass action to restrain themselves from any violence and instead seek solutions through dialogue.