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Xenophobic attacks: retaliation a concern for SA businesses in Africa

Xenophobic attacks: retaliation a concern for SA businesses in Africa

Widespread xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals in South Africa has resulted in threats of retaliation on South African nationals and companies abroad, according to media reports. ICT companies with strong connections and operations in Africa are keeping a close eye on developments.

An Independent Online report stated that South Africa's government has issued warning to South Africans and businesses of the potential for reprisal attacks, and cautioned that the recent spate of attacks on foreign nationals could have serious consequences on the country's economic and social relations.

News24 has reported that Zimbabwe National Student Union (Zinasu) president Gilbert Mutubuki this week called on the country's youth to attack South African businesses in retaliation for the xenophobic violence.

Reports have also surfaced detailing how employees of South African businesses, including Sasol, have had to flee regions like Mozambique.

MTN Group's Chris Maroleng said the company strongly condemns the attacks on foreign nationals in South Africa and is aware of the potential backlash. He said that the company has not received any threats to its operations and has not instituted an evacuation plan.

He said the company has business continuity plans in place in the event of crisis. "We have not had to apply any business continuity measures at this stage," Maroleng added.

Organisations and representatives of South Africa's broader business community have issued statements about the situation unfolding in the country.

Brand South Africa says it joins the rest of the country in condemning the acts of violence that have been levelled against some foreign nationals.

The organisation's statement reads, "We assure all our partners in the continent that South Africa stands firmly against all intolerances such as racism, xenophobia, homophobia and sexism. As such security forces are hard at work around the clock to protect vulnerable communities in the country,

"The country remains true to its founding ethos that any problems or issues of concern by South African citizens must be resolved peacefully and through dialogue. Brand South Africa assures our partners that South Africans are generally not xenophobic; this is attested to by the high number of foreign nationals who have been successfully integrated into communities all over our country, in towns, cities and villages."

Dobek Pater, managing director of Africa Analysis, points out that many of the South African companies operating in Africa employ locals in those regions, also at senior or executive level within their businesses.

Well established Africa-focused South African tech businesses such as MTN and Vodacom are recognised brands he said, and there is a level of status attached to these brands and services.

Subscribers have the option to move over to different networks based on service delivery, so perception of the companies is really about level of service and efficiency of operation Pater added.

From an operations perspective Pater doesn't believe the current situation will necessarily have a huge impact on these companies.

The tense situation has been exacerbated by additional reports of unverified or hoax messages about attacks on social media platforms.

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