Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Reporter
ZIMBABWEANS living South Africa have engaged the ruling African National Congress (ANC) and its political allies to intervene in fresh xenophobic violence in Pretoria and Johannesburg.
The chairman of the Zimbabwean Community in South Africa, Mr Ngqabutho Mabhena, said there was a third force behind the attacks and accused some opposition parties of trying to destabilise the neighbouring country under the ANC-led government.
“In our view, the xenophobic attacks are well co-ordinated and political. Opposition parties which are fighting the ANC government want to make South Africa ungovernable and they are mobilising communities to attack foreigners. We have engaged ANC, Cosatu and the South African National Civic Organisation to help address the problems since they have branches in those communities,” he said.
Mr Mabhena, whose organisation represents 500 000 Zimbabweans — a majority of whom are not documented — said although in the past three days they did not witness incidences of violence, the situation remained volatile.
He said it was not fair for South Africans to accuse worshippers from Zimbabwean apostolic churches of destroying public recreational parks by defaecating, urinating and burning trees.
Mr Mabhena said worshippers from the Nazareth Baptist Church‚ popularly known as the Shembe Church, one of South Africa’s biggest churches in terms of following, also used open spaces to conduct services.
On Friday, the “Mamelodi Concerned Residents” delivered a petition to the Home Affairs Department alleging that worshippers from Zimbabwean apostolic churches were “destroying our public parks” and accused them of defaecating, urinating and burning trees.
Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to South Africa Mr Isaac Moyo said no Zimbabwean was killed or injured in xenophobic skirmishes that occurred in Pretoria and parts of Johannesburg over the last two weeks.
Violence broke out during last Friday’s anti-immigrant march in Pretoria and parts of Johannesburg. Police had to use stun grenades, water cannons and rubber bullets to disperse the protestors going by the name “Mamelodi Concerned Residents” who accused immigrants of “taking our jobs, fuelling crime and prostitution.”
Ambassador Moyo said the South Africa Government had assured African diplomats that foreigners in the neighbouring country would be protected.
The newly formed Coalition of Civics against Xenophobia, the African Diaspora Forum (ADF) and the United Front (UF) blamed recent violence against foreigners on Johannesburg mayor Mr Herman Mashaba.
The coalition is made up of South Africans and representatives of foreign communities under the auspices of the Lawyers for Human Rights.
Mr Mashaba came under fire for referring to foreigners as criminals and inciting violence.
In December last year, Mr Mashaba told journalists that illegal immigrants got to South Africa criminally and “should be treated as such.”
Last week, foreign-owned shops were looted in Atteridgeville in Pretoria while 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.
President Jacob Zuma on Friday condemned the violence and encouraged peaceful co-existence.
The latest attacks evoked ugly memories of the deadly xenophobic attacks of 2015 which displaced hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans and other African immigrants living in South Africa, following inflammatory remarks by Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini who had called for the expulsion of foreigners.