A group of civil society organisations has lodged a complaint with the Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) against the African Basic Movement (ABM) political party for allegedly using language that provokes violence.
On social media and on its website, the ABM, based in KwaZulu-Natal, has openly called for the removal of all foreign nationals in the country.
The Civil Society Coordinating Collective (CSCC), which consists of about 50 organisations and individuals, has also been joined by the Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa, Sonke Gender Justice, the International Labour Research and Information Group and Lawyers for Human Rights.
The complaint has also been endorsed by Section 27, Afrika Awake, the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, the National Council of Congolese for Development and the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
The civil society organisations say the ABM has contravened the IEC’s electoral code of conduct by “engaging in prohibited conduct which involved using language which provokes violence”.
The IEC in KwaZulu-Natal confirmed to News24 that the complaint was received last week and said it was being investigated.
Foreign nationals blamed for ‘safety issues’
The group wants the ABM to be deregistered because of its “explicitly xenophobic stance”; because it is “actively promoting intolerance” and “acts which are anathema to the spirit and letter of the Constitution”.
As its mission statement, the ABM explicitly says foreign nationals are responsible for “safety issues” and a lack of opportunities for South Africans. Its aim, it says, is for the establishment of a “kingdom state” in South Africa, which would see land taken from traditional leaders returned to them, and the entrenchment of the rights of traditional leaders.
The ABM says on its website: “We strongly believe that the influx of the foreign nationals that are scattered in this country is causing a lot of problems and difficulties, creating many challenges, for example: safety issues and opportunities of local people are in jeopardy as they have to compete with foreign nationals even in the job market. Therefore we take initiative to the rights of foreign nationals in the country by creating refugee camps where all foreigners who seek asylum will have to go and reside there until such time they can go back to their country of birth. They will not be allowed to work or run their own businesses in this country as they are refugees, irrespective of whether they are here legally or illegally.”
The CSCC says the ABM is also using social media to “fuel violence and hatred”, especially among “poor people of colour”.
“Our history is one marked by a system that fuelled divisions and thrived on hatred – that of apartheid. It was the ‘othering’ which was legalised oppression and exploitation of black people, based on propaganda of racial superiority of white people. Our democracy today is weakened by promoting a culture of prejudice and hatred against fellow human beings. Foreign nationals are targeted and used as a scapegoat – which is the focus of the platform of the ABM as stated publicly by its leader, Thembelani Ngubane,” the organisations said in a statement.
On Monday, the ABM tweeted:
Said the CSCC: “We strongly argue that what is needed in South Africa is not political parties that scrape the bottom of the barrel in their opportunist scramble for votes. We need leaders who are committed to eradicating inequalities, and discrimination in all its forms. As people living in South Africa, we need to unite to hold any politician to account.
“Talk is cheap. An election manifesto cannot be based on dehumanising people, be they black, be they women, be they foreign nationals. We challenge political parties to show us their plan to hold big multinationals to account, to enforce policies and regulations to ensure that there is work which earns a living wage.
“It is slave wages and chronic unemployment that is the enemy, not fellow comrades, predominantly from the African continent, who come to South Africa fleeing intolerable conditions.”
The ABM was not immediately available for comment.