Somali refugees turn to Zuma for assistance
President Zuma welcomes the new Somali ambassador in Pretoria.
The Somali refugee community in South Africa wants their new ambassador, Sayid Hassan Sheriff Abddullahi, to speak to President Jacob Zuma about the escalating murder of Somali traders in the country. Abdullahi is the first ever ambassador from Somalia to be sent to South Africa, which is a home to over 100,000 Somali refugees.
“We hope that if Ambassador Abdullahi speaks to President Zuma about the continuous murder of Somali traders in townships, the President might take serious action, which could lead to a reduction in the murders of our nationals,” Mahmud Atosh, a Somali business man in Port Elizabeth told Africawitness.
He believes that President Jacob Zuma is unaware of exactly how bad the situation is for Somali traders in the country. “The President is a very busy man, and I doubt if he really knows about the targeted killings of Somalis which is taking place in townships. But since we have an ambassador, I think it is his duty to raise this issue with the president,” Atosh related.
According to the Somali Community Board of South Africa (SCOB), over 1,000 Somali nationals are reported to have been killed in South Africa since the year 2004. The highest number of Somali murders is reported to have occurred in the Eastern and Western Cape. Activists working with refugees claim that most of the Somali murders were xenophobic related or due to business rivalry between local traders and the Somali nationals.
“The majority of those murdered in the Eastern Cape is due to xenophobia, while in the Western Cape and Gauteng it is purely about business rivalry between locals and Somali traders,” Abdurrahman Yusuf a Somali analyst based in PE said, adding that local traders normally accuse the Somalis of selling merchandise cheaper compared to the local traders.
Yusuf also believes that the Somali murders could be reduced significantly once the Somali ambassador speaks to president Zuma about it. “I think political will is needed on the part of the South African government in terms of ending the targeted killings of Somalis and xenophobia against foreigners in general,” he stated.
In June 2011, an independent peer review report released found that government was in denial about xenophobia. “The elevating group felt that the south African government was not doing enough to address the issue of xenophobia and pointed out that there is even an element of denial on behalf of some officials,” the report titled, Implementing the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) Views from Civil Society’ stated.
The report was released by the AMP Monitoring Project to the Pan African Parliament in June 2011. The AMP is run jointly by the SA Institute of International Affairs, the Centre for Policy Studies and the Africa Governance Monitoring and Advocacy Project. South Africa’s last peer review report – the South African Implementation Report II (SAIR II) – in January 2011, stated that government did not pay enough attention to xenophobia.
“It is noteworthy that SAIR II devotes a whole section to xenophobia, which introduces further responses from government to xenophobia and acknowledges the role of civil society in taking a lead on the issue. However, it is poorly written with inadvertent repetition and was clearly assembled in a hurry,” the document stated.
A wave of violence against foreigners swept through South Africa in May 2008, leaving at least 67 people dead and tens of thousands displaced. Since then, several reports of pockets of violence against foreigners in different parts of the country have surfaced in the media. The report gives South Africa’s dealing with xenophobia a red rating, which means “no progress has been achieved on addressing the issue; or very little progress has been achieved and the government does not seem to be on track to complete it in the near future”. The report stated.