Herman Mashaba.  Picture: SOWETAN
Herman Mashaba. Picture: SOWETAN

The newly formed Coalition of Civics Against Xenophobia blames recent violence against foreigners on Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba.

Mashaba came under fire for referring to foreigners as criminals this year.

The coalition‚ made up of South Africans and representatives of foreign communities‚ under the auspices of the Lawyers for Human Rights‚ briefed journalists in Pretoria on Tuesday.

The coalition’s formation comes days ahead of a planned march by "concerned residents" of Mamelodi‚ who claim foreigners living in the area are taking local jobs.

The head of the refugee and migrants rights programme at Lawyers for Human Rights‚ Sharon Ekambaram‚ said Mashaba must take responsibility for his utterances.

"It is really irresponsible of politicians to incite this kind of violence and we lay the responsibility for this violence at his door‚" she said.

Ekambaram said it was not true that immigrants were taking locals’ jobs and business opportunities. Research showed that less than 18% of small businesses were owned by foreigners and more than 50% were owned by South Africans.

Ekambaram called on police to do their work and bring perpetrators of violence to book.

On Monday night, foreign-owned shops were looted in Atteridgeville. On Saturday, homes of suspected drug dealers and brothels‚ said to be owned by foreigners‚ were torched in Pretoria West.

After the weekend attacks‚ the Nigerian government urged the African Union to step in to stop further attacks on Nigerians in South Africa.

Makgoka Lekganyane‚ one of the organisers of the march planned for Friday‚ said the group was not xenophobic.

"This is a peaceful march… We are going to the Department of Home Affairs‚ the Department of Labour‚ and we are going to raise our objections at the metro police department‚" he said.

"We urge everyone that this is a peaceful march. If you are not intending on being peaceful‚ please do not come."

Lekganyane said the group’s main concern was high unemployment. Government was letting too many foreigners into SA.

Meanwhile‚ Tshwane metro police say they have not approved the Mamelodi residents’ march.

"As it stands‚ they don’t have permission to march. To say they have permission‚ is to mislead the public‚" said Tshawne metro police spokesman Isaac Mahamba.

Mametlwe Sebei of Lawyers for Human Rights said the organisation would do everything possible to block the march‚ including distributing pamphlets warning people against participating.

"To Allow a march like this to proceed‚ I think that is fundamentally wrong, but more than that we believe that it are communities that must rise up and take a stand on principles of solidarity‚" Sebei said.

The Human Rights Commission and religious leaders have expressed concern at rising violence against foreigners and property destruction.

TMG Digital

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