Open letter to the Honourable Deputy-Minister Bongani Mkongi

National Deputy-Minister of Police

15 August 2017

Dear Honourable Deputy-Minister Mkongi 




The Hate Crimes Working Group  (HCWG) is a multi-sectoral network of 35 civil society organizations set up to spearhead advocacy and reform initiatives pertaining to hate crimes in South Africa and the region. Members of the network work in diverse sectors.


We, together with the signatories below, are writing to express our grave concern over statements that you made on 14 July 2017 while visiting Hillbrow Police Station in Johannesburg.


Among other things, you accused foreign nationals of economic sabotage and made the following statements:


 “We fought for this country, not only for us but for generations of South Africans to live in harmony in a non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous South Africa.” [..]

“How can a city in South Africa be 80% foreign nationals? That is dangerous. South Africans have surrendered their own city to the foreigners. The nation should discuss that question.”

“We are surrendering our land [...] We fought for this land [..] We cannot surrender it to foreign nationals.”


We support the South African Human Rights Commission in condemning your dangerous words about immigrants and refugees in South Africa, and in Hillbrow in particular.  We believe your statements are xenophobic and are unbecoming of a leader in the State, who should serve all who live in South Africa, including those who have fled their own country’s human rights abuses, and sought better lives and safety in our country.  Moreover, your statement that 80% of Johannesburg’s population is foreign nationals is factually incorrect – the most recent population data we have from StatsSA is that a mere 7.1% of Gauteng’s population was born outside South Africa’s borders.[1]


The Constitution guarantees the rights to equality, dignity, and freedom and security of the person, for all who live in South Africa. We believe these statements have undermined those core rights of our refugee and migrant communities.


We note that the Minister of Police subsequently directed you to correct your words in a statement, but we have not seen any such public correction.  In fact, we learnt with concern that you subsequently told the media that you do not regret these statements.


Xenophobia is a pervasive and deeply worrying problem in South Africa. The wide-spread xenophobic attacks in May 2008 and March-April 2015 have left many dead, and thousands of people traumatised, many without shelter, and living in a constant state of anxiety and dear.  Anti-foreigner sentiment – particularly expressed by someone who holds a respected government position – may encourage a resurgence of xenophobic violence or other acts of overt discrimination against non-nationals.  It makes South Africa a threatening place for everyone who lives in it.

We believe that it is vital for your office to send out a clear message that xenophobic attitudes will not be tolerated in the South African Police Service.  We would therefore like to urge you to release an official statement retracting your words and to recommit SAPS and other government departments to respect the human rights of all in South Africa.  A symbolic act of reaching out to the migrant community will also go a long way to repair relationships, and will send a message of unity and respect.


We appeal to you to consider the above and implement urgently.


Yours faithfully,

The Hate Crimes Working Group

Endorsed by:

  1. Alternative Information and Development Centre
  2. Children's Radio Foundation
  3. Community Development Resource Association
  4. Corruption Watch 
  5. Equal Education Law Centre
  6. Forum for the Empowerment of Women Defending Women, Advancing Rights
  7. Health Right International
  8. Lawyers for Human Rights
  9. LINALI Consulting - Protecting children’s rights
  10. Monitoring and Advocacy Programme Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM)
  11. Mosaic | Training, Service & Healing Centre for Women
  12. Ndifuna Ukwazi
  13. Nelson Mandela University Refugee Rights Centre
  14. Open Democracy Advice Center –ODAC
  15. People Against Suffering, Oppression and Poverty
  16. Right 2 Know
  17. Rural Health Advocacy Project
  18. Section 27- Catalyst for Social Justice
  19. The Quaker Peace Centre
  20. The Thohoyandou Victim Empowerment Program (TVEP), 
  21. The Western Cape Forum for Intellectual Disability
  22. Triangle Project

23.  Umtata Child Abuse Resource Centre

[1] Statistics South Africa  ‘Statistical release (Revised) P0301.4’ Available: