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Ethiopian diplomats moved to Durban, South Africa, after xenophobic attacks went rampant in the city.
Mulugeta Kellil, Ethiopian Ambassador to South Africa, told Capital in an exclusive interview that most of the diplomats relocated to Durban, the largest city in the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal, to closely monitor and help the large Ethiopian community residing there.
Ambassador Mulugeta further said one Ethiopian national died from the attack. “A total of five people died during the attacks, one is from Ethiopia, two from other African nations and two South Africans” he said in a phone interview from his temporary base in Durban.
“Top officials ordered by President Jacob Zuma are working relentlessly with us to solve the problem” Mulugeta said on Friday April 17. He further said that three temporary shelters were set up in Durban, and until Thursday April 16, 23 Ethiopians were sheltered at the facilities. “However, these Ethiopians left the shelter and went to their usual business as the issue is calming down” he added.
He also said that the violence in some rural areas are not calming down and “businesses there are still closed.”
Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, who met with media representatives on Thursday afternoon along with Rwandan president Paul Kagame, also said that the South African government and the ruling party African National Congress (ANC)must deal with the xenophobic attacks directed at African migrants including Ethiopians. The prime minister said that the attacks are unacceptable to no one. Xenophobic incidents have been observed in several occasions in that country since 2008, while the latest unfolding of the event has grabbed the attention of the global society.
Reports coming out of South Africa indicated that very few South Africans are attacking migrant Africans, while previously the attacks had focused on immigrants from the Horn of Africas.
“We, as Africans, feel that we have contributed for the liberation of South Africa from colonialism and apartheid. Africans should come together and live everywhere where they want to live respecting the rule and regulation of that specific country,” Hailemariam said at the press conference.
“We feel that this is an incident that can be taken care of by the ruling ANC party and the South African government,” he said.
The South African Embassy in Ethiopia also condemned the attacks saying that the rest of Africa helped South Africa to regain its independence. “At some point in our history, many South Africans left our country and lived in other countries in the continent, including Ethiopia. We remain eternally indebted to the people of Ethiopia for having supported our leadership and liberation movements. Our collective history continues to tie us together and our common pursuit of Africa’s development will continue to do so. We were and continue to be treated with generosity, dignity and respect by our brothers and sisters from the continent” reads the statement.
“The support of the Frontline states in Southern Africa and that of the Organisation for African Unity was critical to the achievement of the freedom and democracy we are enjoying today” the statement further reads.
It also urge social media users to refrain from flaming up the event.“We wish to also urge those who use social media, to refrain from fanning the flames of violence on Facebook, twitter and other platforms. We all have a responsibility to promote social cohesion, peaceful co-existence and good relations on the continent.”
A statement entitled ‘Regressive effects of Xenophobia to South Africa’s economic growth’ by Lynette Chen, CEO of the NEPAD Business Foundation stated that post-colonial Africa should be more focused on economic prosperity through increased intra-African trade and local investment.
The statement made a note that the recent xenophobic attacks not only have an immense negative effect on South Africa’s economy but it will also stifle the growth of local companies in their efforts to expand into other African countries.
“These recent attacks are threatening to undo the repair done after similar attacks in 2008 and have the potential of further lowering foreign investor confidence not only in relation to South Africa but the continent as a whole,” the statement reads.
Two rating companies, Standard & Poor’s, and Fitch have recently downgraded South Africa’s sovereign credit rating to BBB, and warned of further downgrades if the economy does not improve. Citing concerns of South Africa’s inability to tackle its deeply-rooted structural problems, Moody’s has followed suit and has downgraded South Africa’s major banks to BAA1.
“If not resolved quickly, the disruptions caused by the xenophobic attacks to normal business operations and the threat of more widespread attacks across the country will exacerbate the financial position of the South African economy and may add to the factors that will result in further downgrades,” the statement by NEPAD CEO added.
According to reports,the problem began after the Zulu king, Goodwill Zwelithini, told his followers in March that foreigners in South Africa should pack up and leave.
Then last week, violent attacks on Ethiopian immigrant shopkeepers in Durban townships exploded and have continued since. Dozens of immigrants in Johannesburg and other cities shuttered their shops Wednesday as anonymous cellphone text messages warned that Zulu people were coming to kill immigrants in neighborhoods with large migrant populations.
Another text message referred to an attack that “will be more destructive than ever before,” and warned immigrants to stay indoors. “Take (it) serious our friends,or be killed like cockroaches.”
The victims are often Somalis, Mozambicans, Ethiopians, Malawians, Pakistanis and Nigerians and other Africans. Estimates of the immigrant population in South Africa range from 2 million to 5 million, according to Human Rights Watch.