Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and other African Nations Take to the Streets in Protest.
By Henry K. Mhango | The AfricaPaper
Lilongwe, Malawi – Highly charged Malawians and Zambian nationals on Friday covered the two countries major cities and streets with ‘black color’ as part of the continued protests over a wave of xenophobic attacks by South Africans against foreigners, mostly from other African nations which they have branded as Emergence of black apartheid.
At least three Malawians have died, several injured, and 3,200 affected by the brutal attacks which started late last month in Durban, South Africa, after alleged remarks by the country’s influential Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini that foreigners should leave the country.
Several people in the region say the Zulu King’s remarks provoked the locals to turn against thousands of foreigners from Somalia, Nigeria, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Malawi and other countries.
“It was unbelievable to see young South Africans setting alight young children and stabbing their parents to death,” said, Alless Phiri, a Malawian, and a witness to the event in South Africa.
Ms. Phiri said she witnessed her brother being killed by the “vicious” South Africans adding that the perpetrators were moving about with machetes and other weapons, hunting for foreigners and killing them brutally in the presence of law enforcement officers.
She encouraged the thousands of people gathered in the commercial city of Blantyre to welcome their nationals as they returned after fleeing South Africa.
Ms. Phiri told the crowd that the attackers also severely injured her husband who is currently in the Intensive Care Unit at one of the Hospitals in South Africa.
“I have never (eaten) any food since I saw the body of my brother in a pool of blood,” she said.
Protest and Petition
Testimonies from Ms. Phiri and others who witnessed the killing sparked anger among South Africa’s neighbors and civil society groups who are continuing to protest to influence the South African government probe those involved in the attacks and killings.
The protesters led by some of the country’s top notch human rights activists wore black clothes and marched from the Malawi Parliament building to the South African High Commissioner to Malawi, Cassandra Mbuyane-Makone in the capital, Lilongwe, where they presented their petition entitled ‘We condemn Black apartheid’
“We, the people of Malawi, stand in solidarity with all Africans to condemn in the strongest terms the current resurgence of xenophobia in the Republic of South Africa,” said Billy Mayaya, a human rights activists. “ Xenophobia is the new apartheid, and it threatens to undo the regains that South Africa has made after the end of apartheid,” Mr. Mayaya, added.
Amid the anti South African songs and chanting by the protesters who carried placards with anti-xenophobia massages, Executive Director of the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation Timothy Mtambo, added his voice to the protest.
“We call up on the south African government to ensure that the South African Human Rights Commission investigates xenophobia comments reportedly made by Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini, Edward Zuma and Minister Lindiwe Zulu and take appropriate action,” said Mr. Mtambo.
“We demand that the South African police service should thoroughly investigate the attacks and hold those responsible accountable,” said Mr. Mtambo.
Vigils and Boycott
Apart from Malawi, people in the neighboring Zambia have also protested against the attacks in South Africa.
On the same Friday, thousands of the protesters in both countries held vigils in South Africans major shops such Game and Shoprite, and have since then, been boycotting South African products and businesses to influence urgent action by the South African government.
During the vigil at one of the South Africa’s shop in Zambia, one of the women stripped off her clothes she bought in a South African shop and was left barely naked to express her anger.
Shocked and Disappointed
Receiving the petition, the South African High Commissioner who coincidentally also wore black suit said she was equally disappointed with the barbaric attacks of immigrants by her country’s citizens.
She, assured the protesters that she would forward the document to President Jacob Zuma’s State House in Pretoria without delay.
Meanwhile, Malawi and Zimbabwe governments are repatriating their nationals back home but all the returnees are arriving home without property their belongings or other properties acquired while living in South Africa.
The Malawian President Peter Mutharika and his Zimbabwean counterpart Robert Mugabe, who are co-chairs of the African Union and Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) have expressed shock and disgust on the attacks.
“President Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika is deeply shocked with the xenophobic attacks in South Africa against foreigners, and has opened discussions over the development with President Jacob Zuma through our SADC body,” said Malawi government spokesperson Kondwani Nankhumwa at a Press Conference in Blantyre.
Speaking during the Zimbabwe’s 35th independence celebrations in the capital Halare last week, Mugabe is reported to have said the act of treating other Africans in that horrible way can never be condoned by any one.
History of Xenophobia
In 2008, the Malawi human rights defenders and many locals also protested and petitioned South African Embassy over the first xenophobia attacks in South Africa against immigrants. The event left 60 people dead, several injured and hundreds of thousands affected.
Just seven years down the line, the acts of barbarism are repeating themselves in the Africa’s economic hub. A Malawian social commentator Peter Mumba challenges that such acts may come to an end if the victimized countries’ governments tackle the root causes of the problem.
“People from most of these (victimized) countries are flocking to South Africa to look for jobs since there are high unemployment problems in their countries,” Mr. Mumba said. “ No one would be interested to put his or her life at risk by going to South Africa when there are job opportunities in his or her country,” Mr. Mumba added.
Indeed, Malawi Minister of Labour and Manpower Development Henry Mussa admits that job scarcity is a major challenge faced by the country. He told The AfricaPaper that about 1.9million qualified Malawians are failing to access employment.
Statistics also indicate that about one million Zimbabweans live in South Africa having escaped an economic crisis.
However, the Malawi government spokesperson Kondwani Nankhumwa said Mutharika’s administration is currently focusing on vocational skills building, and entrepreneurship to manage the unemployment problem.
“His Excellency the President Mutharika early this year launched the Community Technical Colleges program where youths are equipped with vocational skills in motor vehicle mechanics, tailoring, plumbing, carpentry and joinery, and many more in the Technical Colleges that have been established in all districts in the country.
“Soon after graduating, government will give them tools for their work and capital to establish their own workplaces,” said Nakhumwa. He added that the government is establishing a Development Bank to offer loans to people engaging in entrepreneurship programs.
“Government is also implementing the Youth Enterprise Development Fund (YEDEF), and Malawi Rural Development Fund (MADEF) which provide loans to youth and other people in rural areas for engaging in various enterprises. The aim is to combat unemployment among the people and improve the country’s socio economic status.”
The AfricaPaper: Based in Malawi, Henry writes for The AfricaPaper. He has worked for various media organizations including the state Malawi News Agency, the Big Issue Malawi Magazine, Capital Radio Malawi, and International Network of Street News Service (UK). His work has also been published by The Guardian (UK). He covers politics, economy, human rights, environment and development for The AfricaPaper.