Statement on xenophobic and gender-based violence in South Africa

By Natural Justice 7 September 2019

As a pan-African organisation working with communities across Africa, Natural Justice is disturbed and heartbroken by the ongoing xenophobic and gender-based violence occuring in South Africa.

We work in several countries across borders in Africa and organise learning, sharing and solidarity events, as we have so much to learn from each other. Our struggles are collective. All communities in Africa are facing increasing hardship, their livelihoods destroyed in the name of “development”, evicted from their lands for extractive industries and infrastructure development and their rights are neglected or abused.

Climate change will exacerbate the threats that communities face. Already we have seen extreme weather events destroy entire cities and contribute to increasing food and water insecurity. These impacts are likely to get worse as the climate warms. This means that Africa’s communities will have fewer options to survive. Climate migration, which is already a growing concern, will be the only choice for many. We can expect more migrants crossing borders in search of new opportunities, which may fuel more xenophobic sentiment unless urgently addressed.

As a continent, one which has not been the main driver of greenhouse gas emissions, but will be one of the worst affected by climate change, we need to be seeking common solutions, rather than fighting amongst us. Collective struggles require collective actions and government’s attempts to shift the blame for increasing hardship and inequality onto “foreigners”, as well as the spread of xenophobic rhetoric, will just continue to divide us.

Climate change is also likely to fuel intra-family conflict and contribute to gender-based violence. Women in South Africa are currently standing up against the ongoing rape and killings of its women. This issue must be addressed with urgency, especially by government, as the hardships faced by communities will increase in the future and women will be disproportionately affected as a vulnerable group.

We ask for communities to stand together in the face of the growing threat of climate collapse and focus their energies on the struggle at hand – the need for sustainable development and community support to deal with the impacts of climate change.

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