This letter was written by members of the Advocacy Network for Africa, based in Washington DC. On Friday September 27, the network is organizing a peaceful protest at the Embassy of South Africa. More details here

Hon. Cyril Ramaphosa

President of the Republic of South

Africa Union Buildings

Private Bag X1000

Pretoria, South Africa 0001

Dear President Ramaphosa,

We write to you as US-based educators; human rights and legal advocates; social justice activists; and longtime allies of African struggles for self-determination. In direct and urgent appeal to center respect of all human dignity, rights and social progress, we call for intentionality in addressing the current iteration of violence.

Many of us were very active during the anti-Apartheid struggle from here in the United States.

It in this spirit, that we join the Africa Union Commission and civil society leaders (internationally) in urging you to respond to this current cycle of xenophobic attacks throughout South African communities. To date, there have been an alarming number of lootings, burned shops, an attack on a mosque and a number of reported foreigners killed who have been living productively in their communities. The ongoing and escalating attacks are a consequence of, among other things, years of impunity, the failure of South Africa’s criminal justice system to uphold the rule of law, corruption which deprives job to a large number of citizens and likely unaddressed anger from the apartheid era. Consequently, foreigners are increasingly exposed and unprotected.

We want to highlight that this is not the first time migrants in South Africa have experienced this cycle of violence. Dozens of people were killed in anti-foreigner riots in 2008 and 2015. But this current outbreak of violence highlights the dangerous and inflammatory rhetoric being spread by South African politicians. Some of these politicians have blamed migrants for supposedly taking jobs from South Africans and committing crimes. To date, it is evident in the cyclical pattern of violence, that there is a clear failure to address past xenophobic, violent outbreaks across the country, instead often continuing to scapegoat foreign nationals for high levels of crime, putting a strain on government services, and operating illegal businesses. Unfortunately, this has led to reprisals against innocent South Africans and the country’s interests in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, and Nigeria.

We raise the tone against xenophobia with all our energy and condemn these attacks in the strongest terms possible, as they defeat the spirit and potentialities of pan Africanism. Moreover, this cyclical violence deters developments that includes African Continental Free Trade agreements which protect freedom of movement of the people as well as the right to the security of person as protected under the constitution of South Africa; the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights; and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which South African is signatory to.

We demand:

1. An immediate and intentional stop to fueling xenophobia and build a country that is rooted in respect for human rights and the rule of law;

2. A recognition of the concerns of marginalized South Africans, improved job security and mechanisms to address the economic disparity;

3. That a security plan is established, with necessary operational mechanisms to ensure the safety of all foreign nationals including, but not limited to business men and women, professional workers, refugees and migrants; and

4. To hold perpetrators of past and present xenophobic and related crimes/violence accountable.

5. That the South African government compensate the victims of past and present xenophobia attacks.

This is an opportunity for South Africa to lean forward and become a welcoming country that we believe it aspires to be.  With our demands, we pledge our collective personal and professional support to work to break this cycle of impunity and degradation of human dignity.

We thank you for your attention.


  • Commissioner, African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, African Union
  • South Africa Ambassador  to USA
  • Congresswoman Karen Bass, Chair of Subcommittee on Africa/ United States House of Representatives

Organizational Signatories:

  • Amnesty International
  • African faith and Justice Network
  • Eritrean Community for Human Rights and Refugee Protection
  • Helping Hand for Survivors
  • Watch Democracy Grow
  • TASSC International
  • Friends of Angola
  • Oromo Advocacy Alliance
  • Sons and Daughters of Africa
  • Jah Kente International
  • African Catholics Association of DMV

Click here to sign on this letter as an individual or an organization. For more information, email This letter will be hand delivered to the South African Ambassador to the US and forwarded to other stakeholders listed above after the rally at the Embassy of South Africa in Washington DC scheduled for Friday 27, 2019