AFRICAN MIGRANTS PROTEST AGAINST XENOPHOBIC OUTBURST BY JOHANNESBURG MAYOR
December 20, 2016 | Uhuruspirit
Marc Gbaffou reads the African Diaspora Forum’s memorandum for Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba to Community Safety MMC Nonhlanhla Sifumba outside the Johannesburg Civic Centre on Monday, 19 December, 2016. Photo: Amanda Watson.
A protest was held on Monday in Johannesburg, South Africa where members of the African Diaspora Forum marched to the offices of the city's mayor who is accused of harbouring xenophobic sentiments against foreigners living in the country. South Africa is regularly shaken by waves of xenophobic violence.
The demonstrators want an apology
Two weeks ago, the mayor of Johannesburg created a controversy with an outburst linking illegal aliens with criminality in the city center.
“Anyone who is in the city illegally must be prepared to face us. They must know we are not going to be that government that tolerates criminality in our midst. If they think they have the resources to fight us, we are ready as a new government to fight criminality in our city so that our people can take ownership of the city,” he said.
Since making his controversial comments, Mashaba has been widely criticized for using words which many think are misleading and irresponsible in a country where foreigners are regularly subjected to violence.
"He is the mayor of the city, normally he should speak for the protection of citizens, but when he qualifies foreigners as criminals, it is an attack against foreigners," a protester said.
"We are not illegal because we want to be illegal. We are illegal because the South African system refuses us," another protester said.
“Many, many migrants are struggling to get their permits,” said Ivorian community leader Marc Gbaffou on behalf of the ADF outside the Johannesburg Civic Centre, where he handed over a memorandum to Community Safety MMC Nonhlanhla Sifumba.
“What we know is that when somebody is a visitor in your country, and after five years you are not able to provide him with proper documentation, you must tell yourself that your system is faulty and you must give yourself time to fix that system,” said Gbaffou.
“You know, when people know the borders are open, people will cross them. In other countries people are saying they will build a wall. We don’t expect that; what we expect South Africa to do is to be able to control its borders because it’s not the duty of the visitor to control the border,” said Gbaffou, adding he didn’t condone illegal border crossings.
“Our mothers and sisters are selling mealie meal on the streets here, they just need to be managed by the mayor; they don’t want to be treated as criminals, because they are not,” Gbaffou said.
All evoked the years of trying to get papers, the hostility of South African officials and constant requests for bribes to send their children to school or to be treated in hospitals: "I am a pediatrician . There are many foreign women who die because they are asked to pay 10,000 rand (almost 700 euros) for a childbirth. Since they do not have this, they do not come to the hospital in time. And sometimes, when they are complicated deliveries, they die or the baby dies."
The protesters deplored the words of the mayor which trivialized xenophobia. They also emphasized the lack of sanction by the authorities. In 2008, more than 60 people died from xenophobic violence in Johannesburg, and to date virtually no convictions have been pronounced.
Mashaba is a member of the opposition DA which managed to win the city of Johannesburg from the ANC during the municipal elections in August.
- with agencies
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