South Africa ‘on the brink of explosive xenophobic violence’, UN experts warn


In a statement released Friday, rights experts cited “Operation Dudula” as an example of hate speech. Operation Dudula, originally a social media campaign, has become an umbrella for the mobilization of violent protests, vigilante violence, arson targeting homes and businesses owned by migrants, and even the murder of foreigners.

The experts, known as special rapporteurs, warned that the ongoing xenophobic mobilization is broader and deeper and has become the central campaign strategy for some political parties in the country.

“The anti-migrant discourse by senior government officials has fueled the fire of violence and government actors have failed to prevent further violence or hold perpetrators to account,” they said.

‘Too black to be South African’

“Without urgent action by the government of South Africa to curb the scapegoating of migrants and refugees and the widespread violence and intimidation against these groups, we are deeply concerned that the country is on the brink of explosive violence,” it continued. the group.

The experts noted that xenophobia, particularly against low-income migrants and refugees, African and Southeast Asian migrants and refugees, has been a feature of South African politics for many years.

For example, in 2008, xenophobic violence killed more than 60 people and displaced at least 100,000 people.

Xenophobia is often explicitly racialized, targeting low-income black migrants and refugees and, in some cases, South African citizens accused of being “too black to be South African”.

In a much-discussed incident in April 2022, a 43-year-old Zimbabwean citizen and father of four was murdered in Diepsloot by a group that went door-to-door asking for visas.

The attackers drove the victim from a place where he was taking refuge, beat him and set him on fire. The violence continued unabated. It is alleged that the burning of Yeoville Market in Johannesburg on June 20 this year was carried out by individuals targeting migrant shopkeepers.

‘Institutionalized Discrimination’

The UN experts found that discrimination against foreigners in South Africa has been institutionalized both in government policy and in wider South African society.

This had led to violations of the right to life and physical integrity, and the right to an adequate standard of living and the highest attainable standard of health, as well as increased risks of arbitrary detention, torture and refoulement, they said.

The experts also expressed concern over reports that widespread corruption in South Africa’s asylum and migration systems is exacerbating these dangerous problems.

“The cost of human dignity and lives, especially in light of the past 30 years of xenophobic violence, remains widespread and deeply troubling,” the experts said.

“We are deeply concerned that South Africa is failing to live up to its positive obligations to protect and promote human rights while preventing racial and xenophobic discrimination,” they said.

“At the same time, perpetrators enjoy widespread impunity for xenophobic rhetoric and violence, leading to a lack of accountability for serious human rights violations and the flourishing of racist and xenophobic political platforms.”

The experts urged private and public actors to uphold their human rights and racial justice obligations and take a strong stand against the racist and xenophobic violence that continues in South Africa.

The UN experts have been in official contact with the South African government to address these allegations and clarify its obligations under international law.

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