The offices of a labour support organisation, the Casual Workers Advice Office, were some of the buildings that were trashed and burned as a wave of xenophobic violence, criminality and looting sweeps mainly Gauteng province and other parts of the country.
Located in the industrial area of Germiston, CWAO provides advice and support to precarious and marginalised workers. According to a statement by the organisation, their office was the only property that was looted and they are not sure whether they were targeted specifically or were victim to a general attack.
“There are however worrying signs that this might have been a targeted attack. Some of our members had noticed two men watching the office from a Toyota Venture over the last few days; our coordinator’s cell phone stopped functioning at the very moment of the attack; and out of all the shops that was attacked in the vicinity, only our office was burnt,” reads the statement.
CWAO’s statement says that their offices were attacked by a group of about 200 and that they took “furniture, printing and communication equipment, our case files and, for the time being, our office. This is a heavy loss in already difficult circumstances.”
The eight-year old non-profit organisation said that the xenophobia and criminality that is taking place is a “direct result of the current intensification of the historic exploitation of the black working class by white monopoly capitalists and the state – the ultimate enemy.”
The ongoing attacks on immigrants from the continent started in Tshwane last week and spread to Johannesburg. The Right2Know campaign said that even though there are many sources of violence they blame the government and its officials.
“It is also clear that statements of outrage and condemnation by state officials at all levels (Cabinet, Parliament, the Gauteng Province, SAPS and Metros) fuelled the actions of ordinary citizens who interpreted those statements to be licence to take the law into their own hands. The recent xenophobic attacks on non-South Africans can be directly linked to calls by politicians to ‘defend the sovereignty of the state’ and confirms a dangerous emerging trend of xenophobic populism which leads to attacks on foreign nationals,” said Right2Know.
Last month, in an operation in the Johannesburg city centre, the police raided shops and street vendors looking for counterfeit goods. Most of the street vendors are foreign nationals from other parts of the continent and Asia. According to the police, hundreds of millions of rands worth of counterfeit goods, and equipment to manufacture counterfeit merchandise, were confiscated and over 600 undocumented migrants were arrested in the raids.
CWAO says it remains vigilant and resolute and that they will continue with their plans and continue to give support to vulnerable workers. “Our plans to continue are already in place. Not one meeting, not one workshop or dispute or workplace group or protest or strike will be stopped because of this attack. We are women and we are foreigners and we struggle for survival.”