Thursday 5 September 2019

South African Businesses Close As Zambian Students Protest Xenophobia

Students light fires at the South African High Commission
in Lusaka -Picture by Salim Dawood/Getty Images

By Paul Shalala

Dozens of South African businesses which include banks, chain stores, food outlets and a television provider have been temporarily shut down in the Zambian capital Lusaka as thousands of students protest xenophobia taking place in South Africa.

First National Bank (FNB), Shoprite, Multichoice (DStv), Hungry Lion, Barclays, Pick N Pay and several other South African owned companies closed yesterday as placard carrying students went on the streets of Lusaka.

The students, who wore black clothes in solidarity with victims of xenophobia, disrupted lectures at the University of Zambia (UNZA) before going on the streets.

They marched along the Great East Road, a major boulevard in Lusaka and stormed the Manda Hill Shopping Mall were they smashed the Shoprite store which is the largest in the country.

At Hungry Lion, the students walked away with umbrellas and also got away with trolleys from Pick N Pay which they rode on.

In their thousands, the students entered Addis Ababa Drive and walked 15 kilometers to the South African High Commission under the watchful eye of heavily armed riot Police officers.   

As they arrived at the High Commission, the UNZA students were joined by hundreds of students from Evelyn Hone College, a tertiary institution situated in the central business district of Lusaka.

The High Commission was locked and heavily guarded by Police.

Students could not physically deliver their petition to South African diplomats.
Students marching on the streets

This forced the students to burn tyres and deface the sign post for the diplomatic mission.

At some point, Police officers tried to stop the students from lighting the tyres which led to students unleashing missiles on the High Commission.

This led to a cat and mouse fight of teargas verses stones between the students and the Police.

Lusaka Province Minister Bowman Lusambo arrived at the mission and arranged transport for the students to be ferried back to the Great East Road Campus where he later calmed them down.

Zambia National Students Association (ZANASU) President Misheck Kakonde said the petition which was not handed over was meant to give the South African government a two day ultimatum to stop the xenophobia.

“We are now fed up with the behavior of South Africans and we may respond with the same amount of force on your businesses and investment in our country Zambia. ……..The South African government is proving to be docile in managing their thugs…..” reads part of the petition.

The petition, which contained 11 demands, claimed that 39 Zambians in South Africa had been injured and some may have even lost their lives.

“If your government does not do anything within two days, your High Commission in Zambia shall be closed for eternity…… No South African businessperson shall bring any products to Zambia…….. First National Bank (FNB) and other South African banks shall not be allowed to operate…..” read some of the demands by the students.

Reaction to the students protest was swift.
Smashed doors at Shoprite Manda Hill Branch

The Zambian High Commission in Pretoria, South Africa clarified that only one Zambian by the name of Daniel Lupiya was caught up in the xenophobic attacks.

Mr Lupiya was hacked in the head and was admitted at Gemiston hospital.

The High Commission says it is following up another report of Mr Siachingi Sialubaya, a truck driver, who is reported to have been attacked in KwaZulu Natal.

President Edgar Lungu condemned the violence by the students but warned that xenophobia can affect African unity.

“Criminal gangs engaged in brutalizing innocent people must know that their actions may cause the isolation of South Africa from the rest of the civilized world. The South African government must bring the culprits to book before this xenophobia degenerates into full scale genocide,” said President Lungu.

According to the Zambia Development Agency, South Africa is among Zambia’s top five trading partners.

The country imports a lot from South Africa and Zambia exports a good number of products to that country.

And most of South Africa’s exports to the Democratic Republic of Congo passes through Zambian borders by road.

Three days ago, the Football Association of Zambia cancelled a friendly march with South Africa due to the xenophobic attacks.

The game was supposed to be held in Lusaka but thousands of Zambians took to social media to call for the cancellation of the game.

The following day, the Economics Association of Zambia also pulled out of the World Economic Forum to be held in Cape Town, South Africa.
Closure statement by Multichoice

And two South African rugby teams JHB Bobbies and the Blue Bulls which were supposed to travel to Zambia for the Zambia 7s tournament have also cancelled their trip.

In the capital Lusaka, one of the most popular private radio stations Hot FM has pulled off all South African music from its playlists.

”In light of the xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals in South Africa, Hot FM will cease to play music by South African artists on our airwaves until further notice. Africa is one and until such a time that our South African counterparts embrace ubuntu again, our stand will be with all our African brothers being attacked and terrorized in that country,” reads a statement from the radio station.

The South African High Commission in Zambia is yet to issue a statement following these developments in Zambia.

Across the continent, Nigerian singer and song writer Tiwa Savage and Ugandan comedian Teacher Mpamire have also cancelled their shows scheduled for South Africa.