South Africa acknowledges ‘Afrophobia’ partly to blame for violence against foreigners

People rummage through a burned car in Johannesburg suburb of Malvern, on September 4, 2019, after South Africa's financial capital was hit by a new wave of anti-foreigner violence. (AFP)
Updated 05 September 2019

South Africa acknowledges ‘Afrophobia’ partly to blame for violence against foreigners

  • At least five Africans have been killed in attacks on foreigners in South Africa this week
  • ‘There is an Afrophobia we are sensing that exists, there is resentment and we need to address that’

CAPE TOWN: South Africa’s Foreign Minister acknowledged on Thursday that prejudice against people from other African countries was one of the causes behind deadly attacks on foreign-owned businesses, a day after Pretoria was forced to shut its embassy in Nigeria over threats of retaliatory violence.
At least five Africans have been killed in attacks on foreigners in South Africa this week. On Wednesday South African companies MTN, and Shoprite closed stores in Nigeria after retaliatory attacks.
South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor said the government decided to temporarily close the embassy in Nigeria for security reasons after a protest march was planned there and threats of violence were received.
In an interview on the sidelines of a continental economic conference in Cape Town, Pandor said South Africa was in constant contact with Nigerian authorities and was also working to restore calm in areas affected by the violence.
“There is an Afrophobia we are sensing that exists, there is resentment and we need to address that,” Pandor said.
“There is a targeting of Africans from other parts of Africa, we can’t deny that. But, there is also criminality ... because a lot of this is accompanied by theft,” she said, describing the attacks as a complex phenomenon whose root causes were not easy to define.
The violence in South Africa has overshadowed the conference of the World Economic Forum in Cape Town. Nigeria announced on Wednesday it would boycott the meeting.
The withdrawal from the summit of Nigerian Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who was scheduled to address a panel on universal energy access on Thursday, has cast a cloud over initiatives to boost intra-African trade.


Suu Kyi and old guard frustrate young Myanmar politicians

Updated 46 min 33 sec ago

Suu Kyi and old guard frustrate young Myanmar politicians

  • Critics say the top echelons of the NLD remain closed to anyone who did not serve time behind bars in the fight against the former junta
  • The average age for the 12 members of the NLD’s top decision-making body, including party boss and civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, is more than 70

YANGON: Once celebrated as democracy champions, a tight elite of elderly former political prisoners at the helm of Myanmar’s ruling party now stand accused of oppression, discrimination and censorship.
The National League for Democracy (NLD) is widely expected to win next week’s election — five years after it swept to power in a landslide victory.
Throngs of young people signed up to the party when the Southeast Asian nation emerged from outright military rule, eager to play their role in cementing democracy.
But critics now say the top echelons of the NLD remain closed to anyone who did not serve time behind bars in the fight against the former junta — effectively sidelining the youth.
“We thought, proudly, we’d be future political leaders,” current NLD MP and former youth leader Aung Hlaing Win, now 37, told AFP.
“But, unfortunately, it went the wrong way.”
The average age for the 12 members of the NLD’s top decision-making body, including party boss and civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, is more than 70.
All of them were jailed or placed under house arrest for opposing the military regime.
Younger members of the party were largely reduced to supporting acts for their seniors, required to ask permission to speak to anyone outside the party and submit speeches for “censorship,” said Aung Hlaing Win.
“It turned out to be an oppressive system — no different from the system of military rule,” he added.
“Just because they’d been political prisoners didn’t mean they knew how to run a country.”
The hopes for change were dashed for many young democracy activists, who accuse the NLD of operating no better than other parties.
Political parties still ask new members about the role they played in the 1988 protests, complained 28-year-old activist Thinzar Shunlei Li, even though a majority of people in Myanmar were born in or after the 1980s.
“This is not the right way to judge a person,” she said. “Our issues, concerns and struggles are different.”
The NLD emerged from Myanmar’s 1988 pro-democracy movement as it fought against the junta.
This was when Suu Kyi — now 75 — was propelled to fame. She became a national hero, serving 15 years under house arrest, one of around 10,000 people imprisoned by the regime for their political beliefs.
But critics say incarceration has become an unwritten requirement for rising up in her party.
“People who served jail time longer are more important — that’s the philosophy of the NLD,” former NLD MP Thet Thet Khine told AFP.
The 53-year-old was kicked out last year for not toeing the NLD line, and now heads a rival party.
More than 120 current NLD ministers or MPs have served time in prison — from State Counsellor Suu Kyi and the president down.
A similar number of the party’s 2020 election candidates have also been jailed at some point.
“Doing time is a badge of honor,” explained Yangon-based analyst Richard Horsey, describing it as an “entry ticket to the upper echelons of the NLD.”
It is a policy the party makes no attempt to hide.
“When we consider giving responsibilities to someone, we favor our old comrades,” NLD spokesman and former ‘88 Generation activist Myo Nyunt told AFP.
“Older people have thicker skin, while newer members can be susceptible to criticism.”
Critics have also pointed to the NLD’s flipped role — a party led by victims of political repression that is cracking down on dissenters now that it is in power.
The number of activists incarcerated under Suu Kyi’s government has soared.
In recent weeks, 15 protesters have been arrested and two sentenced to six years behind bars for condemning alleged abuses by Myanmar’s military in Rakhine state.
Fortify Rights regional director Ismail Wolff described the crackdown on freedom of expression as “extreme and worsening.”
There are currently 537 political prisoners either already sentenced or awaiting trial, said Bo Kyi, co-founder of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.
He also served time under the junta, and said he felt marginalized after his release because of the climate of fear.
But he conceded today’s young activists fare little better, faced with an unsympathetic public that unquestioningly supports Suu Kyi.
“Most people don’t want anyone to do anything against her.”