A GROUP of Africans and British gathered at the South African Embassy in the UK Tuesday where they presented a petition, adding their voice to the global outrage at xenophobic attacks aimed at black people in that country.
About 3000 people signed the petition which was presented to the embassy in Trafalgar Square.
Spokesperson of the group, Melson Shoko, told the media that an embassy official called Fernando received the petition on behalf of the ambassador.
Shoko said they were joined by a group of other Africans from Nigeria, Ghana and Zambia. He said the group would continue to lobby for calm until normalcy returned to South Africa.
Vuvuzela moment … protesters outside the SA embassy in London
According to Shoko, he and his colleagues were jolted into action by images of violence including the gruesome murder of Mozambican national, Emmanuel Sithole, who was savagely stabbed in board daylight in Alexandra, a notorious Johannesburg township.
Africans across the continent have condemned the violence with protesters gathering at the South African embassies in Malawi, Nigeria and Zimbabwe.
Reports Tuesday night said South Africa had closed its consulate in Lagos, Nigeria, following anti-xenophobia protests there.
This was after protests were held outside the consulate in Abuja.
An embassy official was quoted blaming some Nigerians of blowing the situation out of proportion through the social media.
The attacks on foreigners have largely been blamed on Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini who reportedly said immigrants must go back to their countries.
But Zwelithini told his Imbizo Monday that his words were blown out proportion. The king called for calm and pledged his commitment to African solidarity.
Edwin Sesange, Director of Out and Proud, said:
“We are calling on the people of South Africa to work together to bring an end to xenophobic violence against fellow Africans – and for the South African government to do more to stop these attacks by protecting immigrants and refugees.
“We urge the South African government to address the socio-economic problems that are being used as an excuse for anti-immigrant pogroms – and for political, cultural, religious and ethnic leaders to speak out in support of African unity and solidarity, against all hate and victimisation. We appeal to the police, security agencies and courts to bring to justice the people committing these xenophobic assaults.
“We also call on the African Union to speak out and pressure South Africa to stop the violence,” he said.
His colleague, Abbey Kiwanuka, Chief Executive of Out and Proud, said:
“We call upon African nations whose nationals have been victimised to not retaliate but to engage with the South African government to secure a peaceful solution that saves lives and property.”
Peter Tatchell, Director of the human rights lobby, the Peter Tatchell Foundation, added:
“The hope and inspiration of the post-apartheid Rainbow Nation is tarnished by these xenophobic mob attacks on African refugees and immigrants. This violence echoes similar anti-immigrant assaults by the far right in Europe. The government of South Africa needs to do much more protect new-comer African communities and to prosecute the perpetrators. It should also remedy the apartheid legacy of poverty and deprivation that has led some South Africans to unfairly scapegoat and demonise refugees and immigrants.”
In a joint statement, Edwin Sesange, Abbey Kiwanuka and Peter Tatchell said:
“Many foreign African nationals in South Africa have been attacked by xenophobic mobs. Their properties have been set ablaze and looted. Many more have been badly wounded. Thousands are in fear for their lives.
“South Africa has come very far from the dark days of apartheid. People across Africa and around the world worked together to support the South African freedom struggle and create the new Rainbow Nation.
“Many people, such as Zimbabweans, Somalis and Congolese, have fled to South Africa as refugees to escape war and persecution in their home countries. Others have migrated there as entrepreneurs who contribute to the economy.
“It is of great concern to see how the Rainbow Nation is under threat through deadly xenophobic attacks against innocent refugees and immigrants.
“The new South Africa was built on the foundation of the ubuntu (human kindness) philosophy: tolerance, diversity, acceptance, equality and togetherness. We applaud and defend these noble values.
“We accept that there are many social and economic problems in South Africa. However, these can be challenged and overcome without turning to violence. There is no justification for xenophobia and mob attacks on the innocent.”