2019 Johannesburg riots

The 2019 Johannesburg riots occurred in the South African city of Johannesburg from 1–5 September 2019, leading to the deaths of at least seven people.[2] The riots were xenophobic in nature, targeting foreign nationals from other African countries.[3] Retaliatory actions by rioters in other African nations was taken against South African brands. The South African Institute of Race Relations stated that the riots were similar in nature and origin to the 2008 xenophobic riots that also occurred in Johannesburg.[4]

Johannesburg riots
Date1–5 September 2019
8 September 2019
26°12′15″S 28°4′22″E
Caused byXenophobia
Death of a mini-bus taxi driver[1]
Resulted inAt least 12 dead, 680 arrested
Location of Jeppestown, where the riots started.

The riot resumed in Johannesburg on the 8 September 2019, when rioters marched on the central business district and looted shops whilst calling for foreigners to go.[5][6]


On 1 September 2019, riots and looting targeting shops owned by foreign nationals broke out in Jeppestown and Johannesburg CBD[7] following the death of a taxi driver allegedly for trying to stop drug dealers.[1] By 3 September, around 189 people had reportedly been arrested by police for looting.[8] 423 have been arrested by 5 September and President Cyril Ramaphosa stated that at least ten people were confirmed to have died, including two foreign nationals.[9][10] The looting meanwhile spread to the township of Alexandra.[11]

Around 50 businesses predominantly owned by Africans from the rest of the continent were reportedly destroyed or damaged during the incident.[12] The mosque located in the Jozi Mall was attacked and copies of Quran were defiled, while every shop in the mall was looted.[13] In Katlehong, residents placed barriers on the roads before looting the Sontonga Mall, stated the Guanteng Police.[14]

Two people were shot dead for trying to loot shops, including one South African named Isaac Sebaku in Coronationville by a Somali shop owner who was arrested and another person in Crosby.[15] Premier of Gauteng, David Makhura, confirmed that a South African was shot over an incident of looting. Police Minister Bheki Cele stated the shop owner was a Pakistani.[16]

News24 has reported that the police have confirmed two South Africans were shot dead in Brixton and Sophiatown during the riots and a Zimbabwean security guard was shot in Hillbrow. Two victims of unknown nationality were killed in Hillbrow and Jeppestown.[17] Cele confirmed five murders were reported two in Coronationville, two in Hillbrow and one in Jeppestown.[18] Two charred corpses were recovered from shops burnt by looters in Alexandra.[19]

On 5 September, the provincial police arrested 74 persons in Katlehong as looting and rioting continued, taking the number of arrests to 497. They also stated that 11 persons had died during the riots, though only 7 deaths are known to have been caused directly due to it.[20] Isaac Sithole, a Zimbabwean, was beaten up and burnt alive by South African rioters in Katlehong. His sister-in-law alleged that a baby had also died in an arson attack.[21][22]

Following the resumption of rioting on the 8 September Mangosuthu Buthelezi gave a speech calling for calm and a secession of violence.[23] One person died and five were injured during a protest by South Africans against immigrants in Johannesburg whilst 16 people were arrested.[24] Another person was shot in Malvern during the violence.[25] This brought the number of deaths to 12. The police stated that 640 people had been arrested since the riots began.[26] By the end of the riots a reported total of over 680 people had been arrested.[27]

Trucker strike

The riots coincided with a nation-wide truck driver strike protesting against the employment of non-South African truckers.[28] It also coincided with the publication of a statement by Human Rights Watch that over 200 people (mostly foreign truck drivers)[29] had been killed in South Africa since March 2018.[28][29] During the riot a number of freight trucks were torched and foreign truck drivers assaulted in the province of KwaZulu-Natal.[30]


In response the Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) cancelled an international soccer match against South Africa taking place in Zambia due to “prevailing security concerns in South Africa.”[9][31] A Pick n Pay store (a South African-based supermarket chain) in Zambia was stormed following the riots in South Africa.[32]

The Government of Botswana issued travel advisory and warning to its citizens in wake of the deadly riots targeting foreigners.[33]

South Africa

The South African NGO Right2Know stated that xenophobia and the resulting riots were partly the result of "xenophobic populism"[34] espoused by South African politicians such as Herman Mashaba and President Cyril Ramaphosa.[35] A number of South African celebrities such as Nadia Nakai, Manaka Ranaka, and Cassper Nyovest were also publicly critical of xenophobia and the resulting riots.[36]

Foreign nationals on the sixth day of their sit-in outside the United Nations Refugee Agency offices in Cape Town. The banners they have put up call for the UN to pay for them to move to third countries so as to escape xenophobia in South Africa.

Almost a month after the riots in Johannesburg foreign nationals in Cape Town staged a sit-in outside the local offices of the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNRA). The nationals demanded that the UNRA pay for their fare back to their respective home countries so as to escape xenophobia in South Africa.[37][38]


In Nigeria all stores and service centres operated by South African telecom company MTN were temporarily shut following retaliatory attacks on the company for the riots in South Africa.[39] Other South African companies also temporarily suspended trading as Multichoice and Shoprite also stopped operations.[40] Nigerian artist Tiwa Savage stated on Twitter that she would be cancelling appearances in South Africa in protest of the riots.[41][42]

Following the riots President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria summoned the South African High Commissioner to convey his concerns about the incident to President Ramaphosa of South Africa.[43] The Nigerian government also cancelled its participation at the African Economic Forum which was scheduled to be held in Cape Town in retaliation to the riots[44] and closed its embassy in South Africa citing security concerns.[45] Nigeria's ruling party, the All Progressives Congress, advocated for the nationalization of South African businesses in retaliation for attacks on Nigerian nationals.[46] South African diplomatic missions in Abuja and Lagos were closed due to threats of retaliatory violence.[47]

See also


  1. "Police monitor taxi drivers as they gather in the Pretoria city centre". SABC News. 2 September 2019. Retrieved 4 September 2019.
  2. "Gauteng violence: Death toll rises after two burned bodies found in Alexandra". News24. 4 September 2019. Archived from the original on 4 September 2019. Retrieved 5 September 2019.
  3. "Foreigners in South Africa fear for safety after attacks". www.aljazeera.com. Retrieved 5 September 2019.
  4. "Gauteng xenophobia attacks akin to 2008 crisis - Institute of Race Relations". News24. 5 September 2019. Archived from the original on 15 September 2019. Retrieved 5 September 2019.
  5. "Unrest flares up in Joburg CBD: Police fire rubber bullets on marchers armed with sticks and pangas". News24. 8 September 2019. Archived from the original on 21 September 2019. Retrieved 8 September 2019.
  6. "'Foreigners must go', chant protesters as they wait for Mangosuthu Buthelezi". SowetanLIVE. Retrieved 8 September 2019.
  7. Haffajee, Ferial. "BATTLEFIELD JOZI: City in lockdown as looters target migrant-rich areas across Johannesburg and East Rand". Daily Maverick. Retrieved 3 September 2019.
  8. "Gauteng violence: 5 confirmed dead, 189 arrested". News24. 3 September 2019. Retrieved 4 September 2019.
  9. "South African Riots Over 'Xenophobia' Prompt Backlash Across Africa". New York Times. 5 September 2019. Retrieved 7 September 2019.
  10. "South Africa's Ramaphosa says at least 10 killed in riots". Reuters. 5 September 2019. Retrieved 7 September 2019.
  11. "'At least I am alive and safe': Xenophobic violence spreads to Alexandra where it started in 2008". News24. 4 September 2019. Archived from the original on 4 September 2019. Retrieved 4 September 2019.
  12. "Xenophobic attacks shame South Africa as regional leaders meet". Moneyweb. 3 September 2019. Retrieved 3 September 2019.
  13. "'They're not doing this because they don't want foreigners – they're desperate, they're hungry'". Daily Maverick. 4 September 2019. Retrieved 4 September 2019.
  14. "Katlehong residents block roads before looting Sontonga Mall". Independent Online. 4 September 2019. Retrieved 7 September 2019.
  15. "Two killed as shop owners retaliate". The Sowetan. 4 September 2019. Retrieved 4 September 2019.
  16. "Cele defends security cluster intelligence amid Gauteng violence". Eyewitness News. 4 September 2019. Retrieved 4 September 2019.
  17. "Two South Africans, one Zimbabwean woman among 5 killed during violent Gauteng unrest". News24. 4 September 2019. Archived from the original on 4 September 2019. Retrieved 4 September 2019.
  18. "Bheki Cele blames Joburg violence on Cleveland and Denver hostel dwellers". IOL. 4 September 2019. Retrieved 4 September 2019.
  19. "Two more burnt bodies discovered in Gauteng". News24. 5 September 2019. Archived from the original on 5 September 2019. Retrieved 5 September 2019.
  20. "74 more people arrested over violent xenophobic attacks in Gauteng". Independent Online. 6 September 2019. Retrieved 7 September 2019.
  21. "Zimbabwean woman recounts how husband was beaten, burnt to death in Katlehong". Independent Online. 7 September 2019. Retrieved 9 September 2019.
  22. "Zim woman recounts how husband was beaten, burnt to death in SA". Nehanda Radio. 7 September 2019. Retrieved 9 September 2019.
  23. "Mangosuthu Buthelezi's message against xenophobia". TimesLIVE. Retrieved 8 September 2019.
  24. "One dead, five injured in Joburg CBD clashes". eNCA. Retrieved 9 September 2019.
  25. "Second person dies in deadly Joburg unrest". News24. Archived from the original on 21 September 2019. Retrieved 10 September 2019.
  26. "South African attacks on foreign shops continue; 12 dead". Yahoo. Retrieved 10 September 2019.
  27. Bornman, Jan. "New Frame: The people who sparked the xenophobic violence". Daily Maverick. Retrieved 12 September 2019.
  28. Christensen, Susan Njanji, Sofia. "Scores arrested in looting, xenophobic protests". The M&G Online. Retrieved 4 September 2019.
  29. "South Africa: Deadly Attacks on Foreign Truck Drivers". Human Rights Watch. 26 August 2019. Retrieved 4 September 2019.
  30. Jika, Sabelo Skiti, Thanduxolo. "Behind the Johannesburg riots: How did they happen?". The M&G Online. Retrieved 8 September 2019.
  31. Daniel Gallan, for. "Zambia calls off match with South Africa because of xenophobic violence". CNN. Retrieved 5 September 2019.
  32. "WATCH: Pick n Pay store stormed in Zambia". Fin24. 4 September 2019. Retrieved 4 September 2019.
  33. "Botswana issues travel advisory, warns citizens travelling to South Africa | IOL Business Report". www.iol.co.za. Retrieved 5 September 2019.
  34. "Right2Know blames Mashaba, Ramaphosa, Zwelithini for attacks on foreigners | IOL News". www.iol.co.za. Retrieved 4 September 2019.
  35. Mtabane, Busi (2 September 2019). "STATE IS COMPLICIT IN XENOPHOBIC VIOLENCE UNDERMINING THE RULE OF LAW". Right2Know Campaign. Retrieved 4 September 2019.
  36. "Manaka Ranaka on xenophobic attacks: 'It makes me ashamed to be South African'". TimesLIVE. Retrieved 4 September 2019.
  37. Palm, Kaylynn. "Dozens of foreign nationals plead with UN Refugee Agency to help them leave SA". ewn.co.za. Retrieved 15 October 2019.
  38. "Dozens of foreigners camp outside UN offices, want to leave South Africa". News24. 10 October 2019. Retrieved 15 October 2019.
  39. Reuters. "MTN Nigeria shuts stores after anti-South African attacks". ewn.co.za. Retrieved 4 September 2019. {{cite web}}: |last= has generic name (help)
  40. "MTN, MultiChoice shut branches in Nigeria amid protests over SA attacks". Fin24. 4 September 2019. Retrieved 4 September 2019.
  41. "Blood Orange's Performance on A COLORS SHOW Is Dripping in Melancholy and Purple Flowers". OkayAfrica. 4 September 2019. Retrieved 4 September 2019.
  42. "Stars boycott South Africa over xenophobic attacks". 4 September 2019. Retrieved 5 September 2019.
  43. "Xenophobic Attacks: President Buhari Dispatches Special Envoy to South Africa – The State House, Abuja". Retrieved 4 September 2019.
  44. "Nigeria pulls out of South Africa summit after deadly riots". www.aljazeera.com. Retrieved 5 September 2019.
  45. "South African embassy in Nigeria closed after retaliatory attacks". News24. 5 September 2019. Retrieved 5 September 2019.
  46. "Nigerian ruling party demands takeover of SA firms". Fin24. 8 September 2019. Retrieved 8 September 2019.
  47. "SA shuts embassy in Nigeria after xenophobic attacks: official". Eye Witness News. 6 September 2019.
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