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Labour condemns xenophobic attacks in South Africa




CRITICISMS from different labour movements have continued to trail recent xenophobic attacks in South Africa.

Specifically, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), blamed the Jacob Zuma led government of South Africa for not doing enough to protect foreigners in their country.

Meanwhile, three biggest trade unions in South Africa have kicked against the xenophobic attacks on foreigners in the country.
The three unions – The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), Federation of Unions of South Africa (FEDUSA) and National Council of Trade Unions (NACTU) – joined a meeting of some 40 organizations convened by President Jacob Zuma to map out measures to tackle the immediate problem as well as the underlying causes of the violence.

The meeting recognized that there are genuine concerns raised by South Africans, which should be taken seriously, but that there is no justification for the attacks against foreigners. It was further agreed overwhelmingly that the attacks must stop and that all South Africans must be part of the solution.
While all of the participating organizations undertook to take action in their respective sectors and areas of responsibility, it was also agreed to form a committee comprising of representatives of all stakeholders who will work with the Inter-Ministerial Committee announced by the President to take the discussions of the meeting forward.

In her comments on the development, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), Sharan Burrow, said: “Stopping xenophobia and discrimination, and tackling the underlying economic and social causes, is central to the mission of trade unions everywhere.  Trade unions everywhere stand in solidarity with their brothers and sisters in South Africa, and we fully support the engagement of COSATU, FEDUSA and NACTU in the process which is underway in South Africa.”

The President of the NLC, Ayuba Wabba, said instead of seeing foreigners as intruders, South Africans should see them as partners in the developmental strides of the country.
He added: “The challenge of unemployment of South African citizens is not originated by the presence of the immigrants and the South African government should develop policies that can generate employment for its citizens as quickly as possible as this will help promote peace and economic growth in favour of the country.”
PENGASSAN also demanded that the South African government should ensure that the perpetrators of the heinous crime are brought to book.
In a statement signed by PENGASSAN National Public Relations Officer, Emmanuel Ojugbana, the union noted that the disturbing report on the xenophobic attacks in South Africa has aggravated to the level of heinous killings of fellow Africans and foreigners, which leaves much to be desired.
Further expressing the standpoint of PENGASSAN, Ojugbana asserted, “There should be no basis to justify any xenophobic act in South Africa which the world is greatly admiring as a model in the handling of multiracial state status.

“By our divergent background and orientation, the process of interrelating and building consensus is key for harmonization of conflictual views and standpoints. Conflicts and disputes are sometime inevitable, but must be managed in a manner that lives; properties and interests would not be put in jeopardy.

“The South African Government on its part must ensure that the xenophobic act is expediently and permanently apprehended and never should it happen again. All steps and actions required to pacify and appease the affected Countries and their Nationals must be followed with strong assurances of our joint faith and with due regards for our strong ties and bonds as non-discriminatory black race.

“Strict adherence to the rule of law and due process must be followed and exhausted in dealing with our unresolved differences. Culprits must be brought to book to demonstrate to the world that there is no complicity on the part of South African Government.”

The union’s spokesperson therefore called on the Federal Government to urgently put in place machinery that could adequately develop the nation’s economy, create enabling environment, opportunities for gainful employment particularly in the oil and gas sector and economic empowerment, and check brain drain, human and capital flight to encourage Nigerians to reside in the country.
The union leader noted that the optimization of oil and gas sector has the potentials for limitless job creation opportunities that could make many Nigerians seeking greener pasture in other countries to proudly grow this career or economic prospects in Nigeria.

The NLC helmsman called on the government of South Africa to move faster than ever before with steps that will immediately restore peace and harmony as the situation can generate negative international reactions, pointing out that there are South African businesses in other countries, especially the originating countries of the immigrants.

He warned that there could be reprisal attacks on South African investments in other countries if positive steps are not immediately taken.

“South Africa, like all independent African countries, is a member of the African Union which also have the capacity to exert strong intervention before the situation degenerates as this could strain the cohesiveness of the AU and also subvert the spirit and purpose of its existence,” he stated.
Wabba submitted that the killings are barbaric, irresponsible, archaic and fall short of the global decent standards expected of a country like South Africa.
The NLC chief stressed that no matter who incited the violence, the government of South Africa should be held responsible for the ongoing xenophobic attacks.

He therefore urged the Federal Government of Nigeria to take all necessary steps to ensure every Nigeria living in South Africa, old or young are fully protected and should the attacks continue, they should be evacuated back home for rehabilitation and re-engagement.

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