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Xenophobic Attacks on Foreign Shop Owners in Ekurhuleni Go Unreported in National Media: A Worrying New Development

Shop in Phola Park vandalised in a xenophobic attack. Shop in Phola Park vandalised in a xenophobic attack. Photo: Khulumani Support Group

Khulumani is concerned that the extensive xenophobic attacks on foreign shop owners in Thokoza township on the East Rand that took place on 21 and 22 July 2014, went seemingly completely unreported in the national media. Xenophobic attacks on those who live with us should never become normalised. 

On Monday, 21 July 2014, the day that schools re-opened in Gauteng Province, hundreds of learners were out on the streets of Thokoza township on the East Rand, attacking and looting the shops of foreign shop owners. The eruptions of violence and attacks continued all day and throughout the night of Monday night, 21 July 2014 with gunshots being heard throughout the night. On Tuesday, 22 July 2014, worried parents kept their younger learners out of school and locked at home all day. Local people were unable to access airtime which they buy from the convenience small shops that operate on the corners of most blocks in Phola Park in particular. 

These outbreaks of xenophobia are a very serious cause for concern especially given the prevalence of xenophobic violence on the East Rand in particular in the past. There was no news in the media and no messages calling for an end to xenophobic attacks on foreign shop owners from political leaders from Ekurhuleni.

Khulumani calls for citizen-initiated Forums for Foreign Shop Owners across the country, based on the success of such a Forum in Makana Municipality in the Eastern Cape. The rules for these Forums that are citizen-supported are simple: Only one shop per foreign shop owner; Every shop owner must register with SARS; Every foreign shop owner must give something back to the local community.  

In Makana Municipality where the Khulumani associates pioneered this model, there is excellent cooperation between local residents and foreign shop owners and there have been no incidents of xenophobia and looting and vandalisation of the small shops of foreign shop owners.  This is a system that Khulumani members would like to roll out to all communities.

It is time for all of us to cooperate to ensure that all of us have what we need to survive. We need each other. Attacks on foreigners who share our living spaces, destroys our humanity and devastates the initiatives of foreign shop owners on whom so many of us depend for convenient access to provisions and services. 

We are all losers when we participate in these violations. No human being is illegal. Everyone wishes to work within the bounds of the law. We call on the Department of Home Affairs to implement fair processes of regulating the presence of African brothers and sisters who live in our communities. 

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