A South African group calling themselves the Mamelodi Concerned Residents helped organize a rally in Pretoria against foreign nationals on February 24. During the rally, citizens looted the shops of immigrants, including those of Somali and Bangladeshi nationals. Addressing the protest, President Jacob Zuma released a statement advising “citizens and non-nationals to exercise restraint,” but said that the march was “anti-crime in the main” and “was not an anti-foreigners march.” The Nelson Mandela Foundation, however, called the rally a “March of Hatred.”
In a report released the day of the rally, Human Rights Watch warned that attacks could spread throughout South Africa again, alluding to previous outbreaks of xenophobic violence in 2008, when such violence had reached its apex, and in 2015.
In 2009, the United Nations News Centre reported that an estimated 45,000 people were “uprooted” and 62 were killed in the aftermath of xenophobic attacks borne out of a hostility toward foreigners.
Prior to last month’s rally, South Africans targeted over 20 immigrant-owned shops outside Pretoria and at least 12 houses in Rosettenville.
The International Organization for Migration announced its disapproval of the protest, while South Africa’s Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba attributed the resurgence of anti-immigrant sentiment to a “lack of jobs” and “drug peddling and prostitution involving foreigners.”
Following the protest in Pretoria, the Nigerian government urged South Africa and the African Union to work to end the violence. The Nigerian Union South Africa (NUSA) asserted that protesters targeted Nigerian immigrants and businesses In February, NUSA’s national public relations officer Emeka Ezinteje Collins stated that NUSA members had received threatening phone calls and requests “that money be paid to avert destruction of their properties.”
South Africa and Nigeria announced that they will begin an “early warning system” with hopes to monitor and decrease instances of violence. South Africa’s Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane explained that the “monitor would meet every three months” and would be comprised of Nigerian and and South African representatives, according to a recent Al Jazeera report.