Brand South Africa, established in 2002 to help create a positive and compelling brand image for South Africa, has spoken out after a series of riots saw armed mobs beat foreigners and loot shops in several parts of the country last week.
The violence, in which at least seven people have been killed, coincided with World Travel Market Africa, the continent’s leading business-to-business exhibition for the inbound and outbound travel and tourism markets. WTM Africa was held over three days in Cape Town and ended on Friday.
Sporadic mob violence continued over the weekend in Durban, Johannesburg and other parts of South Africa, despite a rally against xenophobia in Durban on Thursday, and condemnation from President Jacob Zuma.
Rampaging gangs of men armed with machetes and axes pursued, attacked and killed people in the streets and burned down shops. Authorities have countered with mass arrests, rounding up more than 300 suspects.
While the violence is not directed against tourists, it generates bad publicity that risks damaging tourism.
The rioting is directed against foreign immigrants, viewed by some locals as unwelcome competition for jobs. Large numbers of migrants, mostly from other African countries and Asia, have moved to South Africa, often without legal authority, since white minority rule ended there in 1994.
Official data suggests about two million foreign nationals live in South Africa, about 4% of the total population. Some estimates put the number of immigrants much higher, at five million, the BBC reports. South Africa’s population is 53 million and unemployment stands at 24%.
Attacks on businesses owned by foreigners last week have driven thousands to seek refuge in temporary shelters.
Brand South Africa issued the following statement:
Brand South Africa (www.southafrica.info) joins the rest of the country in condemning the acts of violence that have been levelled against some foreign nationals residing in some of the nine provinces of South Africa.
We assure all our partners in the continent that South Africa stands firmly against all intolerances such as racism, xenophobia, homophobia and sexism. As such security forces are hard at work around the clock to protect vulnerable communities in the country.
The country remains true to its founding ethos that any problems or issues of concern by South African citizens must be resolved peacefully and through dialogue.
Brand South Africa assures our partners that South Africans are generally not xenophobic; this is attested to by the high number of foreign nationals who have been successfully integrated into communities all over our country, in towns, cities and villages.
Preliminary work done towards resolving this current challenge indicates that the root causes are socio-economic issues that have been raised and are being attended to by all South African role players.
Brand South Africa expresses its sincere sympathies to the regrettable loss of lives and injuries suffered during this unfortunate occurrence.
We are one Africa bound by many areas of commonalities and our spirit of UBUNTU (humanity – I am because you are) will prevail even under the trying circumstances.
Ms. Alice Puoane
Acting Chief Executive Officer
Brand South Africa
Written by : Peter Needham