Footage of mob attack raises alarm in South Africa

Video of four people, thought to be foreigners, bound and set alight stokes concern over apparent wave of xenophobia.

Video depicting alleged gruesome attack of locals against foreigners goes viral [Screengrab]
Video depicting alleged gruesome attack of locals against foreigners goes viral [Screengrab]

A graphic video depicting a group of South Africans setting alight a group of bound young people, initially believed to be foreigners, after dousing them in fuel, has gone viral.

Saturday’s development comes on the back of a series of incidents reported by local media, and after the South African Human Rights Council, a human rights body in the country, along with other concerned parties raised an alarm on Thursday about renewed attacks on foreign migrants in the country.

They called on the South African government to condemn the attacks.

“We are still to hear top members of government condemning the current xenophobic violence,” Marc Gbaffou, chairman of the African Diaspora Forum (ADF), wrote in an open letter.

“We cannot discriminate, not in this sort, not any more.”

Despite the resurgence of violent attacks on foreigners migrants in South Africa, the government is yet to acknowledged that the violence may be xenophobic in nature.

The government has instead attributed the attacks to “crime” and criminal behaviour.

Local media has reported that hundreds of foreigners have, since March 30, been seeking refuge at local police stations in the city of Isipingo, south of coastal city Durban.

One woman has been shot dead after her shop was looted and another man was beaten during an anti-xenophobia march.

The latest incident occurred on Friday when a foreigner-owned shop was petrol-bombed.

This is not the first time that xenophobic attacks have erupted in South Africa. In May 2008, 62 people were killed in attacks that swept across the country.

The video , trending on the social media website Twitter since the early hours of the morning, in South Africa, Kenya and in the UK, along with the hashtag #XenophobiaSA, shows the victims surrounded by people jeering the attackers on as they are set alight.

The authenticity of video could not be verified at the time of publication with Andrew Trench, local online news editor, saying on Twitter that it actually indicated an ad hoc court in the country’s North West Province. 

The video began being removed on Twitter soon after, with an error message reading: “This video has been removed as a violation of YouTube’s policy on shocking and disgusting content.” 

This did not, however, stop Twitter users from continuing to share the video or from discussing xenophobia in South Africa.

Meanwhile, South African President Jacob Zuma, addressing a meeting on Saturday, issued a warning for illegally operating foreign owned businesses to close their doors. 

Zuma also said that the designated government department needed to reconsider its policy of dealing with illegal foreigners.

The surge in violence comes after local leader of the Zulu tribe, King Goodwill Zwelithini, allegedly made comments encouraging attacks against foreigners.

The king on Friday rejected the reports and condemned attacks against foreign nationals.

“I wish to denounce three great evils we experienced these past weeks when dealing with what was raised as general concerns about crime and lawlessness. These three evils are greed, xenophobia and tribalism,” he said.


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