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African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights

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


The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Commission) has been following, particularly through its Country Rapporteur on South Africa, Honourable Commissioner Solomon Ayele Dersso, Special Rapporteur on Rights of Women,Honourable Commissioner Lucy Asuagbor, Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and Focal Point on Reprisals in Africa, Honourable Commissioner Rémy Ngoy Lumbu, and Special Rapporteur on Refugees, Asylum Seekers, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons, Honourable Commissioner Maya Sahli Fadel, reports of attacks against in particular nationals of other African countries, including refugees, migrants and asylum seekers that took place between 1 and 3 September in parts of Johannesburg and Pretoria.     

The Commission has learnt from various reports that businesses belonging to non-nationals were vandalized, looted and burnt in several parts of Johannesburg, including in the Central Business District and the township of Alexandra. The Commission is saddened to learn that in addition to the loss and destruction of property – which will inevitably affect livelihoods – the xenophobic attacks have also led to the loss of lives. The Commission further notes that these attacks have followed from other recent attacks against foreign owned businesses in Marabastad, Pretoria.

The Commission totally rejects and strongly condemns the resurgence of xenophobic violent attacks as acts that not only constitute possible violations of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Charter) but are also contrary to the principles and ideals of African solidarity cherished in the African Charter.

The Commission expresses its alarm and deep concern about not only the recurrence of xenophobic attacks particularly against nationals from other African countries but also the level of organization and the spread of the attacks in the past few days.

The Commission reiterates the obligations of South Africa under the African Charter to ensure that all persons, including foreign nationals, enjoy the rights and freedoms guaranteed in the African Charter without discrimination, including the rightto equality, dignity and the security of their person and property as enshrined under Articles 3, 4, 5 and 14 of the charter.

The Commission further restates the obligations of South Africa under Articles 3 and 4 of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol) to take all appropriate measures to eliminate all forms of gender based violence, including against women of foreign nationalities, particularly nationals of other African countries.

The Commission takes note of the statement of President Cyril Ramaphosathat “attacks on foreign nationals is something totally unacceptable, something that we cannot allow to happen in South Africa” and the fact that a total of 189 arrests have taken place for criminal acts, including for public violence, malicious damage to property and theft.   

The Commission also recalls Resolution ACHPR/Res.131 (XXXXIII) and Resolution ACHPR/Res.304 (LVI) as well as its press statements of 2017 and 4 April 2019, which expressed grave concern over xenophobic attacks that took place in 2008, 2015, 2017 and 2019 respectively. 

In the light of the foregoing, the Commission therefore:

  1. Reiterates its previous calls to the Government of South Africa to fully respect and ensure respect by all members of the South African public the human rights and freedoms of non-nationals living in South Africa, including persons from other African countries, refugees, migrants and asylum seekers, with particular attention to women and girls who are particularly vulnerable to xenophobic attacks;
  2. Calls on the Government of South Africa to ensure that security measures to protect foreign nationals vulnerable to xenophobic attacks are reinforced and that a Commission of Inquiry is put in place to investigate the recent attacks including gender based violence, report on the circumstances leading to the attacks and persons who should be held accountable for their actions;
  3. Urges political parties, politicians, community leaders and individuals to refrain from statements or actions that stoke, incite or encourage anti-foreign sentiments and violence against non-nationals, particularly those coming from other African countries;
  4. Calls on the Government of South Africa to ensure effective follow up of the National Action Plan to Combat xenophobia, racism and discrimination, focusing particularly on putting policy measures and programs for addressing incidents of xenophobia, which have become recurrent; and
  5. Requests the Government of South Africa to take deliberate and urgent action to address the underlying social and economic conditions that ferment sentiments against foreign nationals, particularly those coming from other African countries, including through creating conditions for instituting community dialogue that promotes tolerance, peaceful co-existence and harmony in communities where non-nationals reside and work.

 

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

Honourable Commissioner Lucy Asuagbor, Special Rapporteur on Rights of Women

Honourable Commissioner Rémy Ngoy Lumbu, Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and Focal Point on Reprisals in Africa

Honourable Commissioner Maya Sahli Fadel, Special Rapporteur on Refugees, Asylum Seekers, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons