The Pan African Lawyers Union (PALU), the pre-eminent continental body of lawyers in Africa, condemns in the strongest terms the recent xenophobic attacks against foreigners, mostly other Africans, which have been carried out by a small section of South African society. We urge strong and sustained action from the central and local governments, to ensure safety, law and order; to hold accountable both those who incited and perpetrated the attacks; to make reparations to those who lost lives, limbs and property; and to engage in civic education and a wider dialogue with those sections of South African society that may be tempted to continue such attacks.We appreciate that the vast majority of South African citizens, and their leaders, are peaceful, law-abiding people, who are conscious of their obligations towards each other and towards any persons that happen to be on their territory, either by choice or by circumstance, and whether for short or for extended periods. In this regard, we urge a measure of understanding and pragmatism from other Africans and the international community when deliberating or making decisions regarding the recent recurrence of xenophobic attacks on South African soil. However, we also note that careless utterances by persons in authority, and perceptions of lax or insufficient response by leaders and the security services of South Africa exacerbated the problem, and consequently led to more loss of lives, limbs or property than would have occurred, and has thus engendered a palpable sense of resentment across the continent and globally, and indeed led to threats or actual retaliatory attacks against innocent South Africans elsewhere. These retaliatory attacks on other innocent people are equally reprehensible.We point out that the xenophobic attacks, and the sentiments that led to them, are in direct violation of the Shared Values of the African Union (AU), and the philosophy of Ubuntu, which is practiced in most parts of Africa. They also run contrary to the commitments that the Republic of South Africa, and indeed all other AU Member States have made, including in the Constitutive Act of the AU, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and its Protocols, and the (O)AU Convention governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa. In addition, they run contrary to the letter and spirit of the negotiations for a Continental Free Trade Area in Africa (CFTA) and the proposed Grand Tripartite Free Trade Area for the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa – East African Community – Southern African Development Community (Grand TFTA – COMESA-EAC-SADC). We highlight that the above Treaty commitments are enforceable in law, and that the institutional architecture of the AU provides redress mechanisms, which the individual victims, their communities and their States of nationality can avail themselves of, especially in terms of pursuing guarantees of non-repetition and reparations, amongst others. PALU, as the collective voice of the legal profession in Africa, will avail its members to assist any person or State in need.

We also note that the only long-term and sustainable solution to the xenophobic attacks implicates not only the Republic of South Africa, but also all other AU Member States, especially those from the Southern African Development Community (SADC). This solution requires that all Member States’ governments and peoples strive to build strong, viable States that provide adequate security, public services and developmental imperatives to their citizens, in accordance with the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG), the African Governance Architecture (AGA) and the instruments underpinning the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM). This must go beyond rhetoric and political statements into humble, honest and pragmatic dialogue, and action, between the governed and those that govern us. The time for this is now!

In conclusion, the Pan African Lawyers Union (PALU) strongly urges that: –

  1. The Special Mechanisms of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights undertake an immediate joint mission to the Republic of South Africa. This should include, although by no means be limited to, the Special Rapporteur on Refugees, Asylum-Seekers, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons in Africa
  2. The upcoming Summit of the African Union, to be held in the Republic of South Africa, prioritize a Discussion at Heads of State level, on the recent xenophobic attacks and the underlying sentiments, with a view to concluding an actionable Statement on steps to be taken to guarantee non-recurrence and to fast track full implementation of the provisions of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG)
Elijah C. Banda SC
President, Pan African Lawyers Union (PALU)
Livingstone, Zambia
23rd April 2015
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