Archbishop Buti Tlhagale: ‘Attacks on migrants trash Mandela legacy’
By Erin Carelse – When South Africans hurl insults and inflict violence on migrants, strip them of their belongings, and set their businesses alight, they recklessly go against the solemn oath of Nelson Mandela that never again shall a human being be oppressed by another human being, Archbishop Buti Tlhagale of Johannesburg has warned in a pastoral letter.
“If the unwarranted violent attacks on migrants and refugees are not brought to a halt, South Africans run the risk of becoming like the apartheid oppressors,” he said.
Just 25 years after Mandela became South Africa’s first democratically elected president, “South Africans already trample his legacy underfoot”, the archbishop added.
He expressed his disappointment at the shameless physical attacks on migrants and refugees on spurious allegations that they rob locals of jobs.
“We are put to shame by the migrants who simply show a superior quality of self-restraint in the face of such blatant provocation,” Archbishop Tlhagale said.
“The pillaging and looting of the belongings of the migrants are unashamedly done by youths while adults stand by gloating. The absence of a consciousness of guilt will continue to undermine the moral fabric of South African society.”
Skirmishes between migrants and locals usually happen spontaneously on the back of service delivery protests. “On such occasions, the anger and frustration of local people at the government’s empty promises have tended to engulf migrants,” said Archbishop Tlhagale.
He noted that migrants from Lesotho, Malawi and Mozambique have been involved in the mining sector for decades. “They bring skills into the economy. Those who run businesses provide employment, even to local people.”
Migrants also contribute in other ways, he said. “They bring along with them the passion to succeed, industriousness, cultural diversity, and a sense of openness to the world as opposed to narrow, inward-looking nationalism and isolationism.”
Archbishop Tlhagale said diplomats from African countries have already questioned our foreign ministry about attacks on migrants.
The archbishop called on young people, who have always been at the forefront of the struggle for justice, to stand against injustice inflicted on migrants and refugees now.
“Where then are the charismatic young people to take the side of oppressed migrants?” he asked.
“Their silence is deafening. Their prophetic voices appear to have been muted,” Archbishop Tlhagale said.