ICON takes strong stance against xenophobia

Statement by the International Centre of Nonviolence

This is a response to the comments made by King Zwelithini about foreigners and the subsequent events.

Having listened to the actual recording of the speech, the International Centre of Nonviolence (ICON) expresses its appreciation to the media for the coverage of the speech and of the violence at Isipingo. It commends the work of the Mayor of the eThekwini Metro and of the MEC for their readiness to respond and bring assistance to those affected by violence.

We have a sense of shock at the comment that foreigners should pack their belongings and leave.  The statement was deeply hurtful to many. It has been followed by violent attacks on foreigners by people who claim to be following the lead of the King.

Many South Africans go to other countries for reasons of business, tourism or study, and benefit greatly from the hospitality they gain.  We believe that foreigners in South Africa should receive the same benefits on the basis of mutual respect.

We think in particular of the hospitality that was provided South Africans in their struggle against apartheid, and remember with gratitude and respect those foreigners who lost their lives as a result of the support they provided us.

Migrants have historically been a source of vigour and enthusiasm in the societies they enter.  Our society has benefitted from the contribution of many migrants.   In any country there will be a minority of migrants who abuse the hospitality of the host country, and should be dealt with according to the law, while authorities should work closely with migrant communities to ensure that migrants and local people live under conditions of security and peace.

Many migrants have set up businesses that offer South Africans excellent service. Those who are upset by the business success of foreigners should find ways of learning from them; both South Africans and foreigners need to comply fully with the framework of labour rights.

ICON appeals to the King to use his authority to speak clearly on the need for South Africans to protect the legitimate rights of foreigners, and to handle any conflicts in the spirit and practices of nonviolence.

“ To discuss whether I come from the north and you come from the south or east is, in the long run, academic. Quarrelling about the past is irrelevant. That we are all here is the main point. Let us try and evolve a way of life” – Chief Albert Luthuli.