Southern Africa: JRS welcomes bishops’ statement on violence against migrants
09 July 2010

Johannesburg, 9 July 2010 - JRS welcomes the statement made by the President of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Buti Tlhagale, addressing the potential threat of xenophobic violence in South Africa.

JRS joins the call by the bishops for tolerance, and urges a proactive and preventative action by both communities and the authorities for ensure that the human rights and dignity of all in South Africa be guaranteed. Respect for human dignity, JRS added, should never be contingent on nationality, race, religion or political beliefs.

Moreover, JRS Southern Africa, like the bishops conferences, urges the authorities and the residents of South Africa to take concrete measures to put an end to impunity for those who commit violent acts in our communities.

For further information contact

Robyn Leslie, JRS Southern Africa Advocacy Officer; tel: +27  11 3270811;

The full statement

Archbishop Buti Tlhagale on rumours of post World Cup xenophobic violence

Recently there have been rumours in various sections of our community of the possibility of xenophobic attacks once the World Cup is over. Immediately after such a successful hosting of the World Cup, where South Africans demonstrated to the world and to each other what can be achieved when we all work together, we call on the Government, employers and citizens to listen with renewed vigour to these voices expressing legitimate grievance and act for our common good.

We, the Catholic Bishops of Southern Africa, join our voices to those of South Africans everywhere, asking that those tempted to violence for whatever reason find other means of expressing their grievances. We call on government and communities at all levels to confront the issue of violence in a proactive and productive manner that will make for peace and tolerance. Let us all use the goodwill shown during the World Cup to build a better country.

South Africa, as a whole, needs to find positive and constructive ways to raise and debate issues as one community. Catholic Social Teaching encourages the right and responsibility of all sections of a community, including the poorest, to find a voice in the public domain in order to express their legitimate needs and grievances.

Rumours and assertions must be tested. We cannot allow the rumours to become fact.

Many of the targets of previous xenophobic attacks have been “foreigners”, people from other countries now living legally in South Africa. It is commonly said that these people take away the jobs of South Africans and that they bring criminal behaviour into the Country.

Current evidence suggests that the foreign born are no more likely to be involved in crime as any other part of the population and that they are generally more likely to create employment opportunities rather than take away employment.

It is also misleading to assert that the cause of xenophobia is a hatred of foreign-born persons living in South Africa. In the past violence against foreign communities in the name of protests against poor service delivery suggests that we must be vigilant and work harder to improve the lot of the poorest of South African residents.

Catholic Social Teaching has provided criteria that must be met for people to move between countries both to improve their own opportunities and when they are forced by the situation in their own country to flee. It is incumbent on our government to manage the legal flow of people in and out of the country. Proper management will ensure that legitimate migrants are provided with proper documentation and the ability to settle peacefully into the South African community having gone through the proper application processes.

It is equally proper that our government, as part of its international responsibilities, open our borders to those who are fleeing persecution and the breakdown of the economy of their own countries through no fault of their own. South Africa’s own recent history clearly demonstrates how such movement can be of long-term benefit to all the countries and people involved.

Our Police Service has demonstrated a gratifying professionalism and dedication during the World Cup. We call on authorities such as the Police Service and local government to remove any vestige of the culture of impunity that sometimes developed in the past around crimes associated with xenophobic violence. Violence against foreigners and their businesses should not be seen as tool to elicit local political or economic advantage. Rather they should be seen for what they are: criminal acts that demean and disadvantage us all.

As custodians and teachers of truth and human dignity, we pledge the support of the Church to build greater local integration, tolerance and participation in public life.

A combination of tolerance from our communities and resolute action on the part of government can help ensure that the positive experiences of so many visitors to South Africa in recent months can continue to be replicated in our local communities.

Our successful hosting of the World Cup has shown a continent and country united. We are proud of South Africa and call on all South Africans to take this positive winning attitude forward in 2010.

The full statement can also be accessed on

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Mr James Stapleton
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