eThekwini Secure and its affiliates notes with concern the number of unwarranted alerts disseminated on various social media platforms on xenophobic attacks, including WhatsApp and Facebook. These messages either note that attacks are underway or are imminent.

In the last few days, since fear of xenophobic attacks and unrest came to the fore, eThekwini Secure worked closely with various community police forums to address the misinformation flooding the groups, in an attempt to correct it.

The organisation’s chairperson, Imtiaz Syed said that this high level of misinformation caused undue panic within communities. He said one example was last week’s controlled protest march in the Durban central business district. “WhatsApp groups were replete with updates saying that foreign nationals were being attacked in the CBD. This was not true, resulting in unnecessary panic,” said Syed.

He said that all social media platforms under the eThekwini Secure watch advised its administrators to send out broadcasts to subscribers encouraging them to make an attempt to verify the information, or that they desist.

Said Syed: “We advise that you are welcome to contact our administration to check on the information first so that it can be verified. This helps with getting the most correct and accurate details out to the greater public. As you well know, when something is broadcast on social media it barely takes minutes for it to spread.

“Please be mindful on sharing the information at your disposal. We do not want to create undue panic and paranoia.”

In Johannesburg, xenophobic attacks got out of hand, creating fear for foreign nationals globally. The ANC has also issued a statement on these violent attacks. The ruling party expressed a deep concern over ‘criminal elements’, sewing discord in Gauteng communities.

Their statement went on to say:
• The police and law enforcement “did well” to restore order in Johannesburg, despite public claims to the contrary.
• The party vowed to listen to “genuine grievances” from South Africans who are concerned by immigration.
• In the statement, ANC executives have encouraged “all members” to try and fight xenophobia in a personal capacity.
• The Justice, Peace and Security Department will be tasked with finding the “root causes” of this violence.

The International Relations Minister Naledi Pandor was also forced to deal with a diplomatic crisis this week. Pandor met with several of her African colleagues on Monday, to explain why foreign nationals are being targeted in Mzansi. During the summit, Pandor explained that a “toxic mix of socio-economic factors” had led South Africa down this dark path. More than 10 people have been killed in the violence, which has targeted foreign-owned businesses and migrant communities.

The situation still remains incredibly tense.”The legacy of apartheid was deep and rigidly entrenched inequality for black people. While political and civil freedom soothed the wounds of apartheid, the long term and worsening economic inequality has deepened resentment and caused antipathy toward brothers and sisters from other African countries.

“Perceptions that black migrants take up black jobs and displace black workers
have caused increased deterioration in the relationship. South Africa adopted progressive laws on migration and created room for expanded access to the country, with little regard to the needs of immigration management and lack of a plan as to
skills or industrial development needs,” said Pandor.