Xenophobic attacks: Did the authorities miss the signs?

Written by on September 8, 2019

A toxic mix of hate and misinformation sent waves of xenophobic violence across Gauteng this week. The police’s response to the violence, which kicked off in earnest in Johannesburg, last Sunday, was largely reactive.

They rounded up and arrested hundreds, and engaged in running battles with angry mobs in Johannesburg, parts of the East Rand and Pretoria. By the time the violence subsided, 10 people were dead.

But a confidential briefing document News24 has seen, shows the many warnings available to the government and law enforcement authorities that attacks were being planned, and that something deadly was brewing. This, combined with other news sources, shows how xenophobic threats spread on social media in the lead-up to the attacks.

The police told News24 that they believed the attacks, which began on September 1, were triggered by a spontaneous fire, that could not have been prevented with intelligence, and that the incidents were mainly criminal in nature, and not necessarily xenophobic.

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