Sonke Gender Justice (Sonke) and Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) welcome the public statement issued by the Deputy Minister of Police, Mr Bongani Mkongi on 21 August 2018. In what is unprecedented in South Africa, there is acknowledgement, and regret expressed by a political leader that acknowledges the unintended consequences of public statements on migrant safety. Sonke and LHR work in communities where xenophobic violence destroys the fabric of society, especially those communities that struggle to combat crime and where poverty is exacerbated by poor service delivery.

In August 2017, following correspondence with the Deputy Minister and public statements expressing concerns about his remarks in Hillbrow on 14 July 2017, Sonke and LHR laid a complaint about the Deputy Minister’s alleged xenophobic statements with the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC).

Following an intensive conciliation process with affected parties, the Commission brokered an outcome through mediation on 8 August 2018. Sonke and LHR are pleased to report that there have been very positive outcomes, which includes the official media statement issued through the Ministry of Police by the Deputy Minister.

The sentiments and retractions expressed this week by the Deputy Minister will contribute towards challenging xenophobic attitudes and sentiments in South Africa. This is exemplary in demonstrating the kind of leadership required as we struggle to hold public servants to account.

We note with concern the ongoing xenophobic violence and vigilantism in Zeerust in North West Province, as members of the community incite violence against foreign nationals living in the community. Foreign owned shops are targeted and looted. We call on the South African Police Service (SAPS) to follow the leadership of the Deputy Minister and ensure that law and order is enforced.

Part of the outcome of the mediation process is a commitment to continue working with SAPS through the offices of the Deputy Minister of Police. This is in keeping with the commitment of the SAHRC to the promotion of social cohesion and the eradication of xenophobia in South Africa, and demonstrates the critical role that Chapter Nine institutions have to play in strengthening this democracy and in entrenching the protection of basic human rights and respect for human dignity for all who live in SA.

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