Thousands protest against anti-immigrant riots in S. Africa

Updated 23 April 2015
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Thousands protest against anti-immigrant riots in S. Africa

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa: Several thousand demonstrators marched through central Johannesburg on Thursday to protest against a spate of deadly attacks on immigrants, after further raids by the authorities on suspected gang hideouts.
Watched by police, crowds sang songs denouncing xenophobia and carried banners that read “We are all Africans” as migrant workers crowded balconies, shouting their support.
“This march sends an important message to the world, to Africans,” David Makhura, premier of Gauteng province, of which Johannesburg is the capital, told the demonstrators.
“We are going to defeat xenophobia like we defeated apartheid.
“We are here to make sure that South Africa is a country of peace for all.”
Soldiers were deployed in Johannesburg this week to aid police in raids on hostels housing South African men who are accused of targeting migrants from Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique and other African countries.
At least seven people have been killed in three weeks of unrest that have revived memories of xenophobic bloodshed in 2008, when 62 people were killed.
“I am here to make a stand, to say ‘Not in my name’,” Zain Mayet, 20, one of the marchers, told AFP.
“Keeping quiet makes me as guilty as those who are committing violence.
“We are here to demonstrate that not everyone in South Africa is a criminal who attacks foreign nationals.”
UN chief Ban Ki-moon condemned the violence and called for “all efforts” to be made to avoid future attacks.
“He welcomes the public expressions of the many South Africans who have been calling for peaceful coexistence and harmony with foreign nationals,” Ban’s spokesman said in a statement.

Two people were arrested late Wednesday when police, backed by soldiers, stormed a workers’ hostel in the city’s crowded Alexandra township.
In total, over 300 people have been detained.
The unrest erupted in the port city of Durban about three weeks ago and later spread to Johannesburg, the economic capital.
Many immigrants have been forced to flee their homes and abandon their small shops as marauding mobs hunted down foreigners at night.
“Over 5,000 people from Malawi, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi still seek refuge in displacement camps,” Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF — Doctors Without Borders) said in a statement.
“Injured Malawian and Zimbabwean men told medics that they are too afraid to openly seek medical treatment for their wounds and fractures for fear of further attack.”
More than 20 years since the end of apartheid, many South Africans believe the lack of opportunities for young blacks and a severe jobs shortage has led to deep frustration.
One Mozambican man was stabbed to death in Alexandra township last Saturday in scenes that provoked widespread outrage after the killing was captured in graphic newspaper photographs.
Alexandra, where Nelson Mandela lived as a young man, is one of the most troubled parts of Johannesburg and is located next to the upmarket business district of Sandton.
President Jacob Zuma has pledged to tackle anti-migrant sentiment in South Africa and to address deep-rooted problems behind the attacks.
“South Africans are not xenophobic,” he said Wednesday. “If we don’t deal with the underlying issues, it will come back.”
Zuma gave few details of government plans, but said the violence was driven by “criminal elements” as well as friction between foreigners and locals.
The president will hold meetings on Friday with leaders representing South Africa’s immigrant communities.
Regional relations have been strained by the attacks, with Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique organizing for some worried citizens to return home.
Neighbouring Mozambique said more than 2,000 citizens had fled the violence.
Five buses also arrived back in Zimbabwe on Wednesday.


Duterte skips summit meetings but is in ‘top shape’

Updated 15 min 40 sec ago
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Duterte skips summit meetings but is in ‘top shape’

  • An official named four scheduled events that Duterte had not attended on Wednesday, during which the president “took power naps” to catch up on sleep
  • Duterte’s health has been a constant source of speculation since he disappeared from public view for a week last year

SINGAPORE: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte skipped several meetings at an Asia-Pacific summit in Singapore on Wednesday, prompting the 73-year-old’s office to issue a statement scotching speculation that it was due to ill health.
“We assure the nation that his aforementioned absence has nothing to do with his physical health and wellbeing which have been the subject of speculation,” spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a statement.
“The president’s constantly punishing work schedule is proof that he is in top physical shape.”
Panelo named four scheduled events that Duterte had not attended on Wednesday, during which the president “took power naps” to catch up on sleep, and said he would also skip a gala dinner with the leaders of nine Southeast Asian nations, US Vice President Mike Pence and several others.
Duterte’s health has been a constant source of speculation since he disappeared from public view for a week last year, and he has said openly that he is tired and would like to step down before the end of his term ends in 2022.
Last month Duterte’s office revealed that he had undergone a colonoscopy and he told reporters that a biopsy had shown he did not have cancer.
The constitution provides for the public to be told of the state of health of an incumbent president, if serious.
If a sitting president dies, is permanently disabled or removed through impeachment, the vice president succeeds to serve the remaining years in a six-year, single term.
Vice President Leni Robredo, a leader of the opposition, was elected separately in 2016. Speculation about Duterte’s health last month prompted concern that the Philippines could be headed for uncertainty given the highly polarized political climate.
Duterte has cited Robredo’s “incompetence” as a reason for his inability to quit as president.
Duterte has a record of skipping summit sessions, though he did not miss any as host when the Philippines held the chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) last year.
Panelo said it was “amusing that some quarters are making a big fuss” of Duterte’s absences, noting that he had attended ASEAN meetings with leaders from China, Japan and Russia.
“Last night, the president worked late and had only less than three hours of sleep,” he said. “It is unfortunate that the first event scheduled today was at 8:30a.m.”
Duterte is known for having an unorthodox working schedule that typically starts mid-afternoon and includes cabinet meetings that can go on beyond midnight.