Kampala. African ambassadors to South Africa have asked President Jacob Zuma’s government to bring to book perpetrators of the ongoing anti-immigrant attacks that started several weeks ago.
Six people were confirmed dead, scores injured and property, shops, and homes of foreign workers, especially migrant Africans, destroyed.
The Dean of African envoys, also the ambassador of DR Congo to South Africa, Mr Ben M’Poko, last Friday convened a meeting of his counterparts and senior government officials where they discussed justice and compensation for victims.
Uganda’s High Commissioner to South Africa Julius Peter Moto told Daily Monitor in an interview from Pretoria that African members of the diplomatic corp want perpetrators apprehended, justice and compensation dispensed accordingly.
Mr Moto said officials from the Department of Home Affairs (the equivalent of Internal Affairs) indicated that they would increase police deployment in key areas such as KwaZulu-Natal Provincial capital of Durban and in Johannesburg to contain the protests. He also said emergency help centres to help victims had been established.
“But for now, we have not got any official report of attack or fatality involving any Ugandans except one who was reported killed by relatives on Wednesday and two others severely injured in what is believed to be a car robbery,” Mr Moto said.
Many jobless South Africans accuse foreigners of taking jobs in a country where the unemployment rate is above the 24 per cent mark.
According to police, about 112 people have been arrested throughout KwaZulu-Natal and 12 others from the Guateng provincial capital of Johannesburg. “A special task force and an inter-ministerial committee as I speak now have been established by government to follow up on serving justice and compensation,” Mr Moto said.
He said African ambassadors had also held separate meeting with South African Defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and Home Affairs minister Malusi Gigaba to chart a way forward on the situation.
Last Friday, President Zuma condemned the attacks and said his government was addressing social and economic issues brought up by citizens. He said immigrants contribute to the nation’s economy while others bring scarce skills.
The number of Ugandans living or working in South Africa is believed to be between 100,000 to 200,000, but Mr Moto said it is inconclusive because some go there undocumented and lie low.
Some Ugandans residing in Johannesburg where protests extended late Thursday said they were safe for now.
Mr Zimbe Yahaya, a businessman, said their [Ugandans] aantage is the fact that they confine themselves to urban areas yet protests are mostly in the suburbs.
The Counsellor, Political Affairs at the South African High Commission in Uganda, MS Wendy Swartz, said although her government is yet to issue a statement on compensating families of the victims, the matter “will obviously” be taken forward.
CRISIS TEAM FORMED
In Kampala, the Permanent Secretary in the ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr James Mugume, told journalists at the weekend they have also established an inter-ministerial crisis team comprising officials from his ministry, Office of the Prime Minister and security agencies to monitor the situation and contact the leadership of Ugandan communities in South Africa.
SOURCE: Daily Monitor