Nelson Mandela Foundation

Media Release: Unite against xenophobia leading up to Africa Day
Date: 14 April 2015
From: Sello Hatang, Nelson Mandela Foundation and Neeshan Balton, Ahmed Kathrada Foundation

The Nelson Mandela and Ahmed Kathrada Foundations strongly condemn the spate of attacks in KwaZulu-Natal against those perceived to be foreigners. This is the latest manifestation of a phenomenon which has been troubling our democracy for a long time. We welcome the intervention by our President and other senior leaders and call on all levels of leadership to address the challenge as a priority. For too long South Africans in leadership positions have either ignored the crisis or stoked the fires of hatred.

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 urge South Africans in the lead-up to Africa Day (May 25) to pledge to eradicate xenophobia. Only in this way can we truly commemorate the founding date of the Organisation of African Unity – later the African Union.

Xenophobia is an expression of a terrible failure of memory by South Africans. We are forgetting the long years of struggle against ethnic and related forms of identity mobilisation.  We are forgetting the support given by the peoples of the African continent to the struggle against apartheid. And we are forgetting the legacies of liberation stalwarts like Nelson Mandela and Ahmed Kathrada. In 1995 Nelson Mandela 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.”

More recently, at Nelson Mandela’s funeral, Ahmed Kathrada said:

“It is up to the present and next generations to take up the cudgels where you (Mandela) have left off. It is up to them, through service to deepen our democracy; entrench and defend our Constitution; eradicate poverty; eliminate inequality; fight corruption, and serve always with compassion, respect, integrity and tolerance. Above all, they must build our nation and break down the barriers that still divide us. Xenophobia, racism and sexism must be fought with tenacity, wisdom and enlightenment. Anything that defines someone else as ‘the other’, has to go. Tolerance and understanding must flourish and grow.”

For media enquiries contact:

Nelson Mandela Foundation:
011 547 5600

Ahmed Kathrada Foundation:
011 854 0082 / 076 243 1185