Rwandans living in South Africa have been advised to exercise caution in the wake of the ongoing xenophobic attacks that have rocked the country, targeting foreign nationals who natives accuse of taking their jobs and businesses.
Members of the Rwandan community in South Africa who spoke to KT Press and Kigali Today on Wednesday said that they are living in fear following the outbreak of the latest wave of xenophobic attacks which have so far claimed at least 5 people, including two Nigerians and three South Africans.
The fresh outbreak of violence mainly in Gauteng Province and the Central Business District of Johannesburg has been widely criticized, prompting President Cyril Ramaphosa to condemn the attacks and calling for an end to the violence.
The State Minister of Foreign Affairs in charge of the East African Community (EAC) Amb. Olivier Nduhungirehe said that Rwandans in South Africa should act cautiously in the wake of the attacks which have been condemned by global leaders and celebrities.
“Rwandan citizens have to exercise caution in Johannesburg, given the current situation,” said Amb. Nduhungirehe who is also in Cape Town, South Africa, attending the World Economic Forum-Africa (WEFA), which has been marred by protests and reported boycotts over the attacks.
Some reports had also earlier claimed that President Paul Kagame had boycotted the WEF Africa in the wake of the xenophobic violence but Rwanda has denied the reports, indicating that the Head of State was unable to attend for other reasons. Rwanda is represented by a strong delegation.
Though Rwandans have not been going to South Africa since 2014 after the Southern African country stopped giving visas to Rwandans following a diplomatic standoff, the Rwandan community in South Africa is estimated to be at around 700.
According to the outgoing High Commissioner of Rwanda to South Africa Vincent Karega, most of the Rwandans in South Africa live in areas which are not affected by the violence.
“All incidents so far have not reached any Rwandan. We have a scattered community in various cities and town of about 700 Rwandans most of them living in Western Cape Province where this current violence did not occur,” Amb. Karega told KT Press.
However some members of the Rwandan community who spoke to KT Press said fear has gripped all African nationals in South Africa, with the majority choosing to stay indoors fearing for their lives.
“We are scared. Shops have been ransacked, cars burnt down. We are staying indoors now to avoid running in trouble. My brother’s car was burnt down and the fiancé of my relative also had one car burnt and another one burnt to ashes,” said Cadette Uwase, a Rwandan national in Johanesburg.
Other Rwandans who spoke to KT Press said that they anticipate losses because they fear to open their businesses to avoid being targeted by the attackers.
“We are in a difficult situation. Some are not able to go out to work. If the situation remains like this, we might struggle to get what to eat. We are hoping that the government does something to stop this violence,” another Rwandan who spoke to Kigali Today and KT Press on condition of anonymity for her own security said.
South Africans accuse foreigners, but mostly African nationals, of taking their jobs and opportunities as unemployment in the country hits an all-time high of 30 per cent.
The violence has been condemned by continental stars such as Burn Boy, Wizkid, Davido and others who have vowed not to perform in South Africa again.
“I condemn the violence that has been spreading around a number of our provinces in the strongest terms. I’m convening the ministers in the security cluster today to make sure that we keep a close eye on these acts of wanton violence and find ways of stopping them,” President Ramaphosa tweeted on the Presidency account.
“The people of our country want to live in harmony; whatever concerns or grievances we may have, we need to handle them in a democratic way. There can be no justification for any South African to attack people from other countries,” he added.
The African Union has also condemned the attacks, describing them as despicable. The Chairperson of the AU Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat said the AU condemned the attacks in the strongest terms possible but said that he was encouraged by arrests already made by the South African authorities.
The AUC chairperson said that South Africa should ensure that all perpetrators are brought to account for their acts, and that justice be done to those who suffered economic and other losses.