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African Commission on
Human and Peoples' Rights

Press Statement of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the xenophobic attacks in South Africa

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Commission) is deeply concerned about the recent incidents of xenophobic attacks targeting especially people from other African countries.

The Commission learned from various reports it has received that recent attacks in KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo provinces targetted non-nationals, that are mostly of African origin. As the UNHCR pointed out, the targets of the attacks include refugees and asylum seekers. The Commission has taken note of the fact that in the attacks that took place in Burnwood Informal Settlement, in Durban, non-nationals were physically attacked and forced out of their homes. Apart from the reported loss of lives of three people, 117 people and their families fled their homes to seek refuge at a police station and a mosque.

The Commission is sadned to learn that the attacks have resulted in loss of lives, diplacement, destruction of property, loss of the source of livelihoods and insecurity.

The African Commission affirms that South Africa as State Party to the African Charter has the obligation to ensure that migrants, foreign nationals, and other individuals who seek refuge in South Africa, enjoy all the rights and freedoms guaranteed in the African Charter, and in accordance with the South African Constitution, and to do so free from discrimination, violence and insecurity. 

The Commission takes note of the statement from the Government of South Africa condemning the attacks against non-nationals. The Commission in particular welcomes the statement of the Minister of International Relations and Cooperaiton that all ‘criminal activities and looting of peroperties of foreign nationalis will not be tolerated, and the police and other law-enforcement agencies must act without fear or favor.’ 

The Commission has repeatedly expressed its grave concern over earlier incidents of xenophobic attacks through its Resolution ACHPR/Res.131 (XXXXIII) 08, concerning the xenophobic attacks that took place in South Africa in 2008 and Resolution ACHPR/Res.304 (LVI) 2015, concerning the xenophobic attacks that took place in 2015.

With the recent attacks, the Commission remains alarmed that incidents of xenophobic attacks have become recurrent. It notes in this regard the observation of the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) that 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.

The Commission affirms the fundamental rights of all individuals, including non-nationals, to equality, dignity and the security of their person, lives and property. The xenophobic attacks not only constitute possible violation or abuse of Articles 3, 4, 5, 12, 14 and 28 of the African Charter but also are contrary to the principle of African solidarity which underpins the African Charter.   

In the light of the foregoing, the Commission therefore:  

1.     Calls on the Government of South Africa to fully respect and ensure respect by all members of society of the human rights and freedoms of non-nationals living in South Africa, particularly migrants, refugees and asylum seekers from other African countries;

2.     Calls on the Government to ensure that the acts of xenophobic attacks are duly investigated and that persons who incited and perpetrated the attacks are brought to justice to end the lack of accountability that feeds the cycle of xenophobic attacks;  

3.     Urges political parties, politicians, community leaders and individuals to restrain from statements that fuel division and incite violence against non-nationals;

4.     Welcomes the National Action Plan to combat xenophobia, racism and discrimination and urges the Government to ensure effective follow up of the Action Plan to address the human rights abuses that arise from xenophobic attacks;

5.     Requests the Government of South Africa to facilitate the establishment of the requisite social and economic conditions and public conciousness that promote tolerance, mutual respect and harmony in local communities where non-nationalis reside and try to make a living; and

6.     Encourages the South African Human Rights Commission and civil society organizations to play their part in ensuring that the rights of non-nationals are respected and protected including through having xenophobic statements and attacks dealt with in accordance with the rule of law.

Honorouble Commissioner Solomon Ayele Dersso, Commissioner Rapporteur for the Republic of South Africa