Gauteng appears to be on the threshold of yet another outbreak of horrific xenophobic violence against foreign nationals. Already, there have been serious incidents of arson and looting targeting immigrants in both Johannesburg and Tshwane, while tensions are being further heightened by an upsurge in inflammatory rhetoric, particularly on social media. Later today, a protest march against migrants is set to take place in Tshwane, which potentially can only serve to inflame tensions. It is therefore crucial that every feasible measure be taken by the authorities to prevent the situation from spiraling out of control, as has so tragically happened in the past.
All South Africans, regardless of race, nationality or social background, have a moral duty at this time to do whatever they can to defuse rather than further increase existing tensions. Incitement to violence and unfounded accusations against fellow Africans from other parts of our continent must be condemned wherever it surfaces. Political leaders in particular need to exercise caution and sensitivity when commenting on issues relating to foreign nationals.
The South African Jewish Board of Deputies deplores the targeting of people solely on the basis of their country of origin, and especially the lawless vigilante violence that has so often been the result. Such behaviour is a betrayal of the bedrock humanitarian and democratic values on which our society is based. At this troubling time, we cannot afford to sit on the sidelines and simply let events unfold. If we wish to prevent a repetition of past tragedies, the time for action is now.