JOHANNESBURG – The African Diaspora Forum this week blasted the arbitrary application of the law by South African law-enforcement agents, following recent attacks on migrant businesspersons in the Johannesburg inner-city, which left one fighting for his life.
At least one man is battling for his life at a Johannesburg hospital, after police operations – carried out in Jeppe and Delvers last Sunday saw him get pumped with eight bullets by the law-enforcement agents.
Trouble allegedly started when members of the South African Police Service and the Johannesburg Metro Police Department stormed specifically shops operated by migrant businesspersons, demanding to confiscate goods being sold without following proper legal procedure. Some of the migrants, demanding to be shown documents authorising the search and seizure, tried to resist, resulting in the melee.
Migrant businesspersons complained of police heavy-handedness, after law-enforcement authorities stormed shops owned by predominantly Ethiopian and Somali operators, attacking them with clubs, gun buts, rubber bullets, live ammunition last week.
The ADF said this week the event by law enforcement agents was “a sad and regrettable” act that stripped migrants of their human dignity.
“The African Diaspora Forum has never been ambivalent on criminality by migrants. We have been and remain clear that we do not condone any criminal activities by migrants,” said ADF executive chairman, Dr Vusumuzi Sibanda in a statement released during the week.
“It is very sad that since November last year when the migrants refused to allow enforcement agents to violate their right to privacy and to be searched without a warranty, no one dared consider the infringement of this right and yet all they did was request to be treated like any other human being. Migrants have been stripped off all human rights contained in the Bill of rights and can be treated anyhow as long as a person who does so is an authority of some sought. Even authority is exercised within set perimeters. No one can apply the law arbitrarily, it is not just rule by law but rule of law.
“We have seen many letters from the migrant community to various leaders of government seeking an audience to be treated in a humane and dignified manner. We have video footage of people referred to as authority running into migrant shops carrying AK47 weapons accompanied by dogs as though it’s a fast-paced adrenaline Hollywood movie running into a terrorist camp putting on balaclavas to hide their faces. What kind of law enforcement is this?”
Dr Sibanda said the attacks came after migrants requested search and seizure procedures to be followed and for them to be shown such search warrants. The price they paid were rubber bullets and live ammunition. Some officials are tainting the name of the police services with such a bad mark.
“Migrants are only requesting to be treated like human beings, to be able to ask questions and be answered or responded to with human regard, not to be treated with scorn for requesting that which they deserve,” added Dr Sibanda.
“Migrants like other human beings, are human before they are migrants, they do not cede their humanity to being called migrants, all they require is to be shown the way, when they ask for it. On Sunday in the afternoon, their crime was to request for search warrants, to be searched within the parameters of the law, they revolted to being shot at for requesting that search warrants be produced. Is that not the least anyone who has to be searched deserves? Is that right denied of migrants? South Africa is a constitutional democracy that guarantees that anyone who lives within it shall be treated in terms of the law and we have seen in the case of the SADC tribunal South Africa even standing up for the rights of those outside South Africa, which is commendable.”
The ADF leader said while not condoning a fight-back on the law-enforcement agents, his organisation called for fair treatment of migrants, who should get treatment similar to locals from police.
“We do not condone self-help at all. We have seen many protesting communities burn tires and retaliate when shot at by the police, it becomes an anomaly if done by the migrant community because they are accepted in the country with diminished rights? This is not the community that the South African constitution envisaged nor is it the world that we thrive for in line with Agenda 2063,” he added.
“We are taking five steps forward and ten backwards. We celebrate a South Africa that is better than many African countries and thrive to have all countries modelled around it, but it appears we want South Africa to regress and be like the countries that are not constitutional democracies, where there is no rule of law but where there is rule by law.
“We want to urge the migrant commit to use the lawful means available to them to deal with abuse of laws than to fight back because it is not symptomatic of a progressive society and community. Let us engage more vociferously with Chapter 9 institutions and other lawfully acceptable and recognised avenues when human rights are not respected so that we may build a better community that respects institutions that are meant to enforce law and peace and foster social cohesion and integration. Together let us build a community that we can be proud of and pass on to future generations as a legacy.”