Spread the love

Oliver Meth

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – Xenophobic tensions are brewing in Johannesburg spurred on by political parties.

This week saw smaller parties, Patriotic Alliance (PA), ActionSA and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) grandstanding ‘attacking foreign national owned stores and vendors’.

All three of these parties have campaigned on the promise of a ‘borderless Africa’ during last year’s local government elections, with the EFF now catching heat – for allegedly changing their tune, today when EFF leader Julius Malema visited restaurants at the Mall of Africa, claiming to be “inspecting” to determine just how many foreign workers are employed ahead of South Africans.

The public move marks a very clear departure from the ‘Red Berets’ casual attitude towards immigration. It’s not the first time the EFF – and Julius Malema in particular – have been accused of ‘flip-flopping’ on policies.

Julius Malema /Courtesy/

EFF maintains that the course of inspections are merely a fact-finding mission, to establish current labour policies and ensure locals are employed ‘to a satisfactory level’.

Malema visited Kream, Doppio Zero and Ponta at Mall of Africa. Opposition parties have opposed this move by the EFF, calling it a form of workplace terrorism.

“This is more than just a desperate exercise in xenophobic, political grandstanding masquerading as legislative oversight. It amounts to a form of workplace terrorism and should be roundly condemned,” said MP Michael Cardo who doubles as the Democratic Alliance Shadow Minister for Employment and Labour

Kream Restaurant owner, Tufan Yerebakan told EFF Spokesperson Vuyani Pambo that he won’t have a conversation with party leader Malema.

“I will be courteous enough to answer in writing but I don’t need to be part of a spectacle for political reasons and my foreign staff are afraid and I’m not going to support that,” said Yerebakan.

Malema and supporters then blocked the entrance to the restaurant after management refused to meet with him.

Yerebakan closed for the day, accusing Malema of playing politics.

He told Radio702, during a live interview that he has a 15 year relationship with Malema as a regular at the establishment. He claims Malema was there a week before his public announcement of the ‘inspection’.

Pambo reiterated that the visit was to check that foreign nationals working at these restaurants were not being exploited.

“We will accept 60% employment of South Africans and 40% of foreign nationals. We still hold that we need a borderless Africa. We are not budging on that,” Pambo added.

Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema led party members and supporters to restaurants on an ‘inspection’ to the Mall of Africa in Midrand, Johannesburg on 19/1/2022 to check the employment ratio between South Africans and foreign nationals at the establishments. /Economic Freedom Fighters Media/

For a long period of time the EFF has been operating a self-styled ‘Labour Desk’ and fronting as a trade union. The party has resorted to issuing ultimatums, intimidating employers, and threatening workplace safety if their demands are not met. This serves to undermine and destabilise labour relations.

On Monday, Patriotic Alliance leader Gayton Mckenzie and other party members took it upon themselves to confiscate goods they believe to be a danger to South African citizens. The goods in particular were sold by foreign nationals who own shops in townships. 

The Patriotic Alliance (PA), which is considered a smaller party, was able to pick up momentum at last year’s local government elections nationwide. During the party’s campaign launch, the party’s deputy president, Kenny Kunene blamed foreigners for the high crime rate in South Africa.

“There are many parts of our towns that have been hijacked by foreigners who are not even legal. We want those suburbs and towns back. They even wanted to call Sunnyside, New Lagos,” Kunene had said.

He added that the PA had no problem with foreigners who were in the country legally, but was concerned about small shops run by some foreign nationals in townships.

The PA has been to more than 500 shops so far, this week, and members are determined to visit even more stores to carry out their election mandate.

The South African Informal Traders Alliance said it is worried about the “xenophobic vigilantism being felt on the ground”. The leadership met yesterday and are due to release a statement about the “divisiveness of such actions”.

A representative of the alliance expressed their lack of confidence in political parties and their ‘gimmicks’, having fallen victim to their false promises over the years.

The sporadic attacks on foreign nationals have spread throughout the week – to Soweto, Mangaung and inner city Johannesburg – spurred on by EFF, Patriotic Alliance and ActionSA – giving rise to the #PutSouthAfricansFirst movement. Many foreign nationals – legal and illegal – are now living in fear.

Attempts to get comments from trade unions, Cosatu and Saftu, proved dismal.

About Author