While the nation celebrated unity on African Day, civil society organisations advocating for the rights of migrants feel South African’s must reflect on their attitudes towards Africans. NGO’s feel not enough is being done to deal with the issues stemming from xenophobic attacks, blaming it on the attitudes adopted during apartheid.
“It is of grave concern that the current scape goat for the plight experienced by South Africans is xenophobic attacks. This instills fear in citizens of other African countries to migrate to South Africa,” says Wayne Ncube , the head of immigration detention at Lawyers for Human Rights.
Africa Day is of historical significance due to the role African countries played during Apartheid.
“Other African countries assisted in achieving democracy and unity during the struggle of Apartheid in South Africa. South Africa has contributed to the development of the democracy of other African countries,” says Ncube.
The purpose of the day is for South Africans to be reminded to embrace their roots and to unity with the rest of Africa.
Patrick Godana from Sonke Gender Justice Network says Africa Day should be seen as an opportunity to embrace other countries and the citizens of those countries regardless of the form they present themselves in. However in the past three months xenophobic attacks have escalated to such an extent involving the looting of foreign own businesses and attacks on their persons.
“We should embrace citizens of other African countries regardless if they come as refugees or migrants as they come to South Africa for a better life,” says Godana.
“It is a time for our people to embrace people of different countries whether they are black or white.”
Despite South Africa celebrating 21 years of democracy with the most liberal constitution xenophobic attacks exist.
“We are a democratic society we cannot cause harm to another and participate in these gross human rights violations. We need to deviviate away from our divided attitudes due to our segregated past and embrace all people regardless of their background,” says Godana.
Africa Day is the annual commemoration on 25 May since 1963 when The Organisation of African Unity (OAU) was founded. On this day, leaders of 30 of the 32 independent African states signed a founding charter in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. In 1991, the OAU established the African Economic Community, and in 2002 the OAU established its own successor, the African Union. However, the name and date of Africa Day has been retained as a celebration of African unity. VOC