Socialist Worker

South African activists call for solidarity against attacks on migrants

by Ken Olende
Issue No. 2102

A series of brutal attacks on migrant workers in South Africa in the last two weeks has left dozens dead and forced thousands to flee.

At least 22 people had been killed as Socialist Worker went to press. The mobs carrying out the assaults accuse migrants of taking jobs from local people and causing crime.

Activists in Johannesburg have called a solidarity march to build unity between South African workers and migrants.

The Anti-Privatisation Forum (APF) issued a statement against the attacks. “Some 40 percent of all South African citizens are unemployed and this has been the case for many years,” it read.

“This is not the result of immigrants from other countries coming to South Africa but rather, the result of the anti-poor, profit-seeking policies of the government and the behaviour of the capitalist class.”

It also pointed out that “the South African government’s approach to the crisis in Zimbabwe has further contributed to the mass migration of Zimbabweans to South Africa”.

The majority of the migrants have arrived from Zimbabwe, since the collapse of the neighbouring country’s economy. South Africa's ANC government has kept close connections with the Mugabe government in Zimbabwe.

The APF is urgently building this Saturday’s solidarity march against the attacks.

More than 200 people have been arrested over the attacks. The mobs include what the police have called a strong “criminal element”, who are simply using the mayhem as cover to loot and rob both immigrants and locals.

Claire Ceruti, editor of the publication Socialism from Below, spoke to Socialist Worker: “Migrant workers are sheltering in police stations, which is ironic since at the end of January police arrested 1,500 people in a raid on the Central Methodist Mission.

“The church was being used as a refuge for destitute Zimbabweans. Police said the raid was needed to wipe out criminal elements. The whole operation suggested that migrants were to blame, and acted as a prologue to the current problems.”

People have been taken by surprise at the level of violence, she adds. “I live in Yeoville, which is normally a vibrant suburb, but is now silent. No kids are out playing, no one is walking on the street. People are just too scared to show their faces.

“But one small example shows the potential for solidarity. In inner city Johannesburg several residential buildings have been organising against evictions by the city government.

“The majority of people in one of the buildings are from Zimbabwe and came under attack over the weekend. But the advice centre that coordinates the anti-eviction campaign mobilised the other blocks, which are almost all South African. The attackers were driven off.

“This issue can still go both ways. The next days will be crucial in ensuring the success of the solidarity march and giving people who oppose the attacks the confidence to come out on to the streets.”


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International
Tue 20 May 2008, 18:46 BST
Issue No. 2102
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