Was South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa shedding crocodile tears when he swiftly condemned deadly attacks on foreign-owned businesses? Campaign video may have contradicted his much-admired incorruptibility.
South Africa’s president swiftly took to the media to condemned days of widespread looting and arson attacks on foreign-owned businesses across Johannesburg and the capital Pretoria, calling the violence “totally unacceptable”, but his previous rhetoric, just like most local politicians may have invoked a deadly culture of xenophobic attacks on foreigners and foreign-own businesses.
In a recent campaign video, President Cyril Ramaphosa could be heard addressing thousands of supporters vowing to end foreign businesses in South Africa. Though Mr. Ramaphosa in most cases made reference to “illegal businesses” his comments yet were seen to have encouraged and sustained a practice that has now become a routine in that country. For instance, over the last decade and a half, there have been several rounds of violent xenophobic attacks on foreigners, some fatal, especially on those from Somalia, Zimbabwe, Nigeria and Malawi, with numerous homes and businesses torched.
But the attacks last week were a horrific sight. In Alexandra, for instance, a township in Johannesburg which was in lockdown for days after the attacks, some foreigners returned to their shops to witness a pile of ruins and looted empty shelves of merchandizes.
“We are a country that is completely committed against xenophobia. We do not allow and cannot tolerate attacks on people from other African countries,” President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a video statement published on Twitter Tuesday. “
But African leaders are not buying watery excuses any more. The government of Ghana for instance, through its Minister of Foreign Affairs, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey requested the government of South African to ensure a total safety of its citizens over xenophobic attacks.
Consequently, Nigeria has unequivocally confronted attacks on its citizens. President Muhammadu Buhari is expected to pay a state visit to South Africa in October to seek a permanent solution through a collaboration between both countries on fair trade and security. But Nigerians are demanding more drastic options.
Other African governments have followed suit, warning their citizens living in South Africa to take safety precautions. The Ethiopian Embassy in South Africa for example, instructed their citizens to close their shops “until peace is restored”, whereas Zambia’s Ministry of Transport and Communications warned Zambian truck drivers not to travel in to the country.
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