At least 18 Ghanaians living in South Africa have been rescued from xenophobic attacks and relocated, the Ghana High Commission in Pretoria has said. A source at the commission told the Graphic that it had to relocate the affected people as the attacks on foreigners, especially Africans, spiked up.
The source said the Ghana High Commission was in touch with the Ghanaian community and had provided hotlines to assist those who had become victims of a march against immigrants that had turned violent.
South African media report that at least 148 people have been arrested in connection with the latest attacks that have sent many foreigners fleeing their homes or losing their businesses.
The organiser of the Ghanaian community in Pretoria, Mr Kofi Asare Agyei, confirmed to the Graphic that the Ghana High Commission had, indeed, given out a hotline but stated that the leadership of the association tended to receive more calls for help than the High Commission.
He said last Friday the association received calls from Atteridgeville, a suburb of Pretoria, where three Ghanaians were attacked by masked South Africans.
He said two of the Ghanaians, who jumped a wall to escape from the machete-wielding attackers, were injured, while the third reported that he was slapped repeatedly by the intruders.
He said the attackers took away computers, money, passports and DSTV decoders.
“I think they were area boys who took advantage of the situation because they wore masks, knowing that the victims could easily identify them,” Mr Agyei said.
He alleged that in that instance, the South African police were not helpful, as they showed little interest in driving over to investigate the case.
The Ghana High Commission has more than 30 Ghanaian associations in South Africa on its website, with two — the United Welfare Association of Ghanaians in Pretoria and the Ghanaian Community in Pretoria — based in Pretoria.
Efforts to get the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Mrs Shirley Ayorkor Botchway, to speak to the issue did not yield any fruit, as calls and a text message to her were not responded to.
Last Friday, Mrs Botchway told the Parliamentary Press Corp, after she had briefed Parliament, that all Ghanaians and their businesses in South Africa were safe, despite the ongoing xenophobic attacks in that country.
“We are monitoring the situation; we are watching carefully what is happening and we will ensure that if there are any threats on any Ghanaian, the mission will quickly move in and ensure the safety of our nationals,” she had stated.
She said Ghana had also called on the South African Ministry of Internal Affairs to assure Ghana that Ghanaians would be safe.
Call for boycotts
In Nigeria, some of the citizens have staged a protest at the South African High Commission in Lagos against the treatment being meted out to their compatriots in South Africa and threatened to boycott two of South Africa’s multinational companies — MTN and DSTV.
In Ghana, the Member of Parliament (MP) for Asawasi in the Ashanti Region, Alhaji Mohammed Muntaka Mubarak, has also called for boycott of South African business interests in the country.
Catholic & Anglican Bishops condemn it
Meanwhile, the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference and Anglican Bishops have condemned the attacks.
The Catholic Bishops are quoted as saying: “We support the statement of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) that no grievance justifies violent attacks against foreign nationals living in South Africa.
“We also agree with the SACBC on the urgent need to address the competition for limited resources, public services and economic opportunities between foreigners and the unemployed poor in South Africa.”
Their counterparts in the Anglican Church said they were deeply concerned by the potential for violence during the planned march against foreign nationals last Friday.
The Anglican bishops of Southern Africa on Thursday condemned an anonymous call in social media that incited citizens to attack foreign nationals living in the country.
South African media on attacks
The Citizen newspaper of South Africa reported that the latest wave of attacks was born out of the Mamelodi Residents Trust-organised march against foreign nationals whom they accused of taking jobs away from locals, operating brothels and drug dens.
“Two weeks ago, protesting residents of Rosettenville burnt houses thought to be owned by foreign nationals they accused of operating brothels and drug dens.
“Similar attacks have occurred in Pretoria North, Mamelodi and Atteridgeville — houses and businesses owned by foreigners were looted and set alight,” the report said.
South Africa’s Mail and Guardian also reported that the march against foreign nationals led to the shutdown of entrances and exits in Atteridgeville in Pretoria.
Similar attacks occurred in 2008, 2012, 2015 and last year.
Civil society unites
Meanwhile, civil society organisations in Pretoria, including the Gauteng Civic Association, have agreed to “form a coalition against crime, poverty and xenophobia”.