Human Rights Watch denounces chronic xenophobia in South Africa


To be a foreigner in South Africa is to live “in constant fear of being targeted” , warns Human Rights Watch in a report published Thursday, September 17, recalling that the experience of xenophobia is “routine” in this country. country.

In April 2019 in Johannesburg, “I was selling clothes in the street when nine South Africans arrived with sticks and sjamboks” (rhino leather whips), says a Congolese in the document published by the NGO. “They were hitting people, shouting, ‘Strangers, go home! We don’t need you! You take our jobs and our money! ”. I started to run, but I was hit and my two bags of clothes were taken. “

Keshia is 10 years old. Her classmates in Johannesburg keep reminding her that she is a kwerekwere , a foreigner, insulting and pushing her. But she is also worried about her parents, who fled the violence in South Kivu (DRC): “Every time they are attacked, it affects me ,” she explains. We are a family, so if one of us suffers, we all suffer. “

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Xenophobia in South Africa remains widespread, recalls HRW, despite a national action plan announced in 2019 to fight “intolerance” . In the continent’s most industrialized economy, foreigners are often accused of stealing jobs from locals, especially in low-skilled sectors.

Deaths by the dozen

In 2008, 62 people died in xenophobic violence, and 7 more in 2015. In September 2019, armed crowds attacked businesses run by foreigners in Johannesburg, killing 12 people.

“People of other nationalities have endured wave after wave of xenophobic violence and live in constant fear of being targeted” , summarizes Kristi Ueda, author of the NGO report, which brings together some fifty testimonies from Africans and Asians.

The police also operate in a discriminatory manner, particularly targeting foreigners when they launch raids against counterfeiting, for example. Or by abusively detaining foreigners, then claiming to have lost their papers or their belongings, underlines the NGO, which denounces a culture of “impunity” which ” only encourages” this behavior.

HRW calls on the government to take “urgent and concrete measures” to protect foreigners, believing that the national plan is content for the moment “of words” . The last South African census, in 2011, estimated the number of people born abroad at 2.2 million, or less than 5% of the population at the time.


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