We will stem the tide of xenophobia – Jozi Mayor
Johannesburg Executive Mayor Councillor Parks Tau on 29 April, assured South Africans that the City of Johannesburg was actively looking at effective ways to prevent the re-emergence of xenophobic violence in the city.
Executive Mayor Tau was speaking at a memorial service in honour of Emmanuel Sithole, the 35-year-old Mozambican immigrant who was stabbed to death in broad daylight as xenophobic violence swept through Johannesburg and other parts of the country over the past few weeks. The service was held at the East Bank Hall in Alexandra.
Sithole was one of seven people who died during the latest wave of xenophobic violence. His brutal killing – graphically captured by a newspaper photographer – shocked the world. The City of Johannesburg and the South African Council of Churches covered the cost of repatriating his remains to Mozambique. He will be buried on Saturday.
The memorial service was also attended by humanitarian worker Graca Machel, Gauteng MEC for Infrastructure Development Nandi Mayathula-Khoza, three Members of the Mayoral Committee of Johannesburg – Geoffrey Makhubo (Finance), Nonceba Molwele (Health and Social Development) and Ruby Mathang (Economic Development) –Mozambican High Commissioner Fernando Fazenda and Consul-General to South Africa Damasco Gabriel Mate.
Mayor Tau said he was encouraged by the way ordinary residents had since rallied around anti-xenophobia campaigns and applauded the police for their swift arrest of the “perpetrators of this gruesome killing”.
“I am confident that the law will take its course. As government we are working hard at all levels, in conjunction with the SA Council of Churches and civil society, to stem the tide of xenophobia,” Mayor Tau said.
He said the anti-xenophobia sentiments expressed by Johannesburg residents since Sithole’s death were proof that “the vast majority of South Africans” were strongly opposed to xenophobia.
“The City would like to ensure that new arrivals to Johannesburg are properly integrated into the community,” he said.
The City has partnered with the Johannesburg Migratory Council to deal with xenophobic sentiment. It has also established a xenophobia “hotline” in partnership with cellular network operator Vodacom to help those affected.
“This means those affected by xenophobia can now stay in touch with relatives and friends by dialling *134*422# [at no cost].”
Referring to Sithole’s death as a “wake-up call”, Fazenda thanked the South African government and civil society for their efforts in curbing xenophobia. He reiterated the urgent need to understand the root causes of xenophobic violence. Mama Machel called for introspection and healing, saying she stood before those assembled as a Southern African mother “in pain”.
Machel expressed her solidarity with Sithole’s widow, as well as with the wives and children of all the other victims of xenophobic violence of 2008.
“The soul of the nation needs a deep search of what we need to do to heal ourselves as the South African society,” said Machel.
She added that Sithole’s death “will remain in us all as a symbol of what should not happen again in any of our [African] nations”.