Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has condemned comments made by Deputy Police Minister Bongani Mkongi, about the problem of hijacked buildings in Johannesburg.

Mkongi was quoted last week as having said: "How can a city in SA be 80% foreign national? That is dangerous. South Africans have surrendered their own city to the foreigners." These utterances have been described as xenophobic by the human rights commission.

"The SAHRC is of the view that statements such as this have the potential of fuelling anti-immigrant sentiments and is, in fact, xenophobic. SA is already grappling with the scourge of violent xenophobic attacks‚ often directed against fellow African non-nationals.

"As a figure of authority in the Department of Police — and by extension across society — the deputy minister is expected to exercise a great deal of circumspection in his public utterances. Not only are the statements factually incorrect‚ (in that he claims‚ without evidence to the effect‚ that 80% of the city is occupied by foreign nationals)‚ they also unjustifiably ascribe crime to foreign nationals as an undifferentiated group‚" the commission said in a statement.

Mkongi was addressing concerns related to crime and hijacked buildings in Johannesburg — Hillbrow in particular.

The commission said the Department of Police was expected to play a leading role in combating and preventing xenophobia, as well as the effective detection thereof‚ and in crime prevention and law enforcement. Therefore‚ the deputy minister was expected not to utter inflammatory statements.

"Leaders are expected to constructively shape public debate and social cohesion through evidence-based statements. Repeating stereotypes does not advance the goals of upholding the fundamental rights of all in society‚" SAHRC said.

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