LGBT groups have condemned the ongoing attacks on foreign nationals and the looting of their shops in Gauteng and Kwazulu-Natal.
Triangle Project (Cape Town) and the Gay and Lesbian Network (Pietermaritzburg) joined other civil society groups such as the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), Ndifuna Ukwazi and Sonke Gender Justice in expressing their outrage on Tuesday at the xenophobic violence.
“We hold that foreign nationals have a right to all the same basic rights and protections under the law as South Africans,” said the organisations.
“We reject any and all attempts to undermine the dignity and human rights of foreign nationals. We consider xenophobic violence to be a direct attack on the freedom we struggled for so many years in this country and an antithesis to our democracy.”
They urged all South Africans, and especially those who hold public office, to refrain from making comments that can intentionally or unintentionally fuel the spread of xenophobia.
“We are particularly alarmed by xenophobic comments reportedly made by Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini. We urge Zwelithini to make a public apology to all foreign nationals living in South Africa and to use his influence to urge people to cease xenophobic attacks immediately,” the groups stated.
The Zulu king has been blamed for fuelling the violence after he called on “those who come from outside to please go back to their countries.”
In 2012, Zwelithini was slammed for making anti-gay comments, describing homosexuality as untraditional, “wrong” and “rotten”. As is the case with his recent alleged xenophobic statement, he claimed then that he had been misrepresented by the media.
The groups further urged the public not to be misled by populist politicians who blame unemployment and other social problems on foreign nationals, stating that this should not “distract us from the pressing problems of inequality, social justice and a dysfunctional public service.”
There are estimated five million immigrants in South Africa. In 2008, xenophobic attacks claimed the lives of more than 60 people.