Malawi High Commissioner to South Africa Gloria Bamusi has ordered South Africa-bound truck drivers to postpone their trips until further notice following ongoing attacks by some South Africans against foreign business interests.
According to South Africa’s Daily Maverick, the attacks on foreign nationals started on Sunday in the suburbs south of Johannesburg City centre before spreading to the central business district (CBD) where more than 50 foreign owned shops, business premises, cars and properties were torched and looted.
In an interview on Tuesday, Bamusi said heavy-duty trucks and their drivers have been targeted, adding that other Malawians travelling by road should stay safe or, at least, postpone their trips until things go back to normal.
She said: “My appeal to Malawian truck drivers to South Africa is that they please postpone their trips. It is not safe because the people are targeting them and also those who are travelling on roads to South Africa should be cautious; we are not saying people should not come here but they should postpone their trips until things get back to normal.”
Bamusi further said the truck drivers who are already in South Africa need to consider parking their trucks and seeking shelter in safe places.
She condemned the xenophobic attacks, saying it is sad that Africans have turned against one another against the continent’s commitment to inter-dependence and unity.
However, Bamusi said that there is no Malawian who has so far approached her office to be repatriated home because of the situation, stressing that the embassy is closely monitoring the situation and its doors are open to those who need the embassy’s intervention.
In an interview on Tuesday, Road Transporters Association President Abdul Lambat said although his association had not yet officially been told of the need to postpone trips to South Africa, the association had been closely monitoring reports on the unfortunate attacks in South Africa.
“We will heed the government advice [when received] because any government takes such measures in protecting its citizens. But the stoppage on this busy route to the ocean will have a very big impact on our economy.
“This is very unfortunate and unnecessary because we need South Africa and they also need us. At the end of the day, this is why all regional neighbours sign bilateral agreements which partly guarantee a free flow of goods. We only hope the situation will be urgently managed, to allow things to get back to normal,” he stated.
In her reaction to the situation, Malawi Economic Justice Network (Mejn) executive director Grace Kumchulesi regretted the economic implication the transportation shutdown is causing.
She said: “This is going to hit transporters’ businesses and other businesses that get their supplies from South Africa. Malawi Revenue Authority revenue collection will also be negatively affected.
“Even jobs will be affected, both directly and indirectly. The effects will be immense if the ban gets prolonged.”
Reports indicate that Nigerians have also been affected the most. The Nigerian Government has condemned the act, saying they will take definitive measures to protect their citizens.
A Government of Nigeria Twitter handle reads: “The continuing attacks on Nigerian nationals and businesses in South Africa are unacceptable. Enough is enough. Nigeria will take definitive measures to ensure safety and protection of her citizens.”
The Zambian Government has also warned truck drivers from that country to suspend operating the SA route.
Meanwhile, Southern Africa Development Community- Council of Non-Governmental Organisations executive director Glenn Farred has called on South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa to meet responsible representatives of the affected communities and condemn the violence taking place as xenophobic, not just saying they are criminal in nature.
The violence echoes sporadic outbreaks of attacks mainly targeting migrants from other African countries in some of South Africa’s poorest areas.
In 2008, about 60 people were killed and over 50 000 forced from their homes and in 2015 seven people died in violence.
Migrants are seen as competition for scarce jobs and government services. However, according to a 211 census, migrants are only about 4 percent of the South African population.