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South African unions shocked by xenophobia and looting

3 September, 2019From 1-3 September mobs in Johannesburg broke into shops mainly owned by foreign nationals and looted goods. Several cars were torched, a person was shot dead, and others were injured in the mayhem.

The violence is a repeat of what has happened in previous xenophobic attacks in the country, and the police say they made several arrests.

Louise Modikwe from IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, the Southern African Clothing and Textile Union, who is also the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) provincial secretary for Gauteng province said: 

“COSATU is shocked by the violence against foreign nationals, in particular Nigerians, that started last week after a taxi driver was killed in Pretoria. This violence is perpetuated by the economic challenges in South Africa and in Africa as well, and results from failures by governments to develop economic policies that grow economies and create jobs. Government interventions in job creation, management of undocumented foreign nationals, and drug control in communities are often poor.”

The South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) to which IndustriALL affiliate, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa is also affiliated said:

“SAFTU reiterates that foreign migrants have nothing to do with the expanded unemployment rate of 38 per cent. They have nothing to do with the fact that two thirds of South Africans live in poverty. The inequalities faced by South Africans are not created by poor African and Asian migrants but are manifesting from the capitalist system that divides and exploits the black working class.”

The unions said safety and security is poor as the South African Police Service is failing in its duties to maintain law and order. They said this could be one the reasons why crime is rampant in the country.

The unions also condemned the practice by some employers of preferring undocumented over South African workers. The undocumented workers were paid wages below the minimum wage of ZAR 3,500 (US $230). They said this created conflict between workers.

With sluggish economic growth of 2.8 per cent per annum in Sub Saharan Africa, jobs are hard to come by, with South Africa seen as providing better opportunities than other countries. Efforts currently being made to create jobs on the continent include the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the African Continental Free Trade Area, among other initiatives.

Photo: © Ihsaan Haffejee, New Frame: 2 September - People run away from the police who tried to disperse a mob attempting to loot migrant owned businesses