why is xenophobia a problem in south africa

The South African government has been accused of fanning xenophobic sentiment after police launched a major crackdown on illegal immigrants. PP
More than 1,650 foreigners are among thousands arrested in the wake of a wave of xenophobic violence in the country, which left eight people dead and hundreds injured. P But the government has defended Operation Fiela, insisting it had "stabilised the situation and prevented further loss of life," the South African reports. "Security agencies continue to work around the clock to protect both foreign nationals and South African citizens against any attacks," the government said in a statement. Zwelinzima Vavi, ex-secretary general of the Congress of South African Trade Unions, said the main problem with the operation was its timing, "coming in the wake of the violent attacks targeting in particular people of African origin, feeds into the misconceptions that migrants are to blame for all out social and economic ill," she said. Zimbabwean activist Elinor Sisulu described the operation as a form of ethnic cleansing. "In Rwanda, there was talk of cleaning out 'cockroaches' and I've actually heard people talking about cleaning out [here]," she told news. South Africa has a long and bloody history of xenophobia, with the recent violence reminiscent of a wave of attacks on foreigners in 2008 which left more than 60 people dead. What has happened? The latest outbreak of violence began last month in the coastal city of Durban and quickly spread to the financial hub of Johannesburg. Locals attacked foreigners, particularly targeting Malawians, Zimbabweans, Ethiopians and Mozambicans, in several townships in and around the city. Some of the victims were reportedly stabbed and one man was burned alive. Police used stun grenades, water cannons and rubber bullets to disperse the angry mob looting foreign-owned businesses, while owners were forced to arm themselves with machetes, axes and sticks. Thousands of people have been displaced, seeking refuge at police stations, churches and temporary accommodation set up by NGOs. "Please help us. They want to kill us," Ethiopian shop owner Aka Bob Amaha told reporters. "We can't stay in our shops waiting for them to burn us. " Why? South Africa has experienced waves of xenophobic attacks in recent years, but the recent flare-up in violence has been linked to comments made by Zulu KingPZwelithini. Commentators accused him of inciting racial hatred after he delivered a speech telling foreigners to leave the country last month. They "dirty our streets" and their "unsightly goods [are] hanging all over our shops" he told cheering supporters in Durban. "We ask foreign nationals to pack their belongings and go back to their countries. " But Zwelithini has insisted that he was misquoted, and that the media was to blame for inciting the violence.


While condemning the attacks, he said that if he had given an order to kill foreigners "this country would be reduced to ashes," reports. His call to deport foreigners was backed up by President Jacob Zuma's son Edward, who said South Africa was "sitting on a ticking time bomb". Despite a public backlash, Edward Zuma has refused to apologise for his comments. "People think that I am being xenophobic, but I am not, I am just trying to make a point that we have a problem," he toldP. Attackers accuse foreign migrants of stealing their jobs, blaming them for high levels of unemployment and crime in the township areas. The attacks have been fuelled by a sense of hatred, but also by jealousy and resentment. But attitudes go even deeper than that. The current situation is a "hangover from the past, fuelled by the present," argues Sibusiso Tshabalala in. The high levels of xenophobia reflect the country's history of isolation from the rest of Africa, a by-product of Apartheid which continues to reinforce a dangerous "us and them" attitude. The "ghettoisation" of different ethnic groups under Apartheid contributed to the tensions witnessed today, argues South African journalist William Gumede in. "[This] left a legacy of not only interracial group and colour prejudice, but also prejudice against Africans from outside the country. What has the response been? The Malawian government has announced it would repatriate its citizens from South Africa as the violence intensified, while neighbouring Mozambique set up border camps to cope with the "exodus of its citizens", the BBC reports. The South African government and police have been criticised for their reluctance to describe the attacks as xenophobic, instead suggesting that they were based on "ideological differences" and insisting that the situation is under control. P "We need to realise that we are dealing with an urgent crisis," said Trish Erasmus, head of the Lawyers for Human Rights refugee and migrant rights programme. "We need a more coherent and decisive response from the government. " Thousands of people have taken part in a "peace march" through the streets of Durban, standing in solidarity with foreigners and calling for an immediate end to the attacks and discrimination. "[The increase in xenophobia] is something to be worried about," said Ingrid Palmary, an associate professor at the Wits African Centre for Migration and Society. "We must ask: if it's so easy for the fundamental rights of one group to be trampled, who is next? " In May 2008, 62 people were killed in a wave of xenophobic attacks across townships. Foreign nationals, mostly migrants from Somalia and Ethiopia, were dragged through the streets of Alexandra, barely a few kilometers from JohannesburgБs plush Sandton suburb, and БnecklacedБ - a throwback to the summary execution tactic used in the Apartheid days.


A rubber tyre, filled with petrol, is forced around a victim's chest and arms, and set alight. In an instant, the story of South AfricaБs much-touted rainbow nation of black, white and brown people happily living together, fizzled away in an outburst of vengeance. Tens of thousands of people were displaced, forced to seek refuge in churches, mosques and even police stations. In the end, it took to quell the violence. South Africa is a nation of multiple ethnicities, languages and nationalities. From the Zulu and Xhosa, to the Dutch and the British. Somali and Tutsi to Indian Tamil and Gujarati, Chinese and Zimbabwean. However divided, unequal, and structurally flawed, South Africa is home to a very diverse population of people. A country with deep pockets, it remains attractive as a home for migrants, some of them seeking greener economic pastures, others safety and security. The economy relies heavily on migrants, be it to make up for a massive skills shortage or as cheap labour in farms and mines. Despite the violence meted out to foreign nationals, tens of thousands continue to seek asylum there, as many as 60,000 to 80,000 per year. According to the, there were almost 310,000 refugees and asylum seekers in the country as of July 2014. By the end of 2015, this number is expected to top 330,000. Xenophobia in South Africa is not new. Some, like Michael Neocosmos, Director of Global Movements Research at the University of South Africa (UNISA), recall anti-migrant sentiment in the early nineties, when the new government was in the midst of planning new economic policies and politicians of all stripes began drumming up anti-immigrant sentiment. БIt is important to recognise that xenophobia can exist without violence. And itБs not sufficient to simply recognise it when people start killing each other,Б he said. A survey in 1997 showed that just six percent of South Africans were tolerant to immigration. In another survey cited by Danso and McDonald in 2001, 75 percent of South Africans held negative perceptions about black African foreigners. In a most painful of ironies, many South Africans associate foreign black Africans with disease, genocide and dictatorships. The ills of Apartheid: skin colour, complexion and passes, in this case citizenship, are still the determinants of a better life, or discrimination. Little illuminates this disparity more than the infamous Lindela Repatriation Centre, built in 1996 for undocumented foreign nationals entering the country. Lindela, outside Johannesburg, has been a scene of abuse, corruption and incessant overcrowding.


But the undocumented are also held at police stations, even army bases. БThere is evidence that even in 1994, the records have shown that foreigners were thrown out moving trains because they are killed of bringing diseases, taking jobs, the same rhetoric we hear today,Б Jean Pierre Misago, a researcher at the African Centre for Migration and Society at the University of Witwatersrand, said. БIt didnБt start or end in 2008. It had been building up,Б he said. And build up it did. In 1998, three foreign-nationals were killed on a train, between Johannesburg and Pretoria. In 2000, a Sudanese refugee was thrown from a train on a similar route. The reasons were all the same: blaming foreigners for a lack of jobs, or. In 2007, a shop in the eastern Cape was set alight by a mob. The violence that escalated in 2008, was distinctive and decisive. It affected black, African foreign nationals; poor and disenfranchised South Africans; in the townships, but there is no evidence to suggest white Europeans were attacked, or those from the Indian subcontinent. price, but researchers remind us that at least one third of the victims were actually South African. Xenophobia is not a problem unique to South Africa. With so many economies battling recession for the better part of the past decade, the deadly triad of competition-survival-blame has seen fear of the foreigner rise across the globe. БXenophobia is experienced in the north and the south, in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) regions and other countries. ItБs a worldwide phenomenon,Б Misago said. But, contrary to popular belief, xenophobia in South Africa is not just a problem of the poor. A national survey of the attitudes of the South African population towards foreign nationals in the country by the South African Migration Project in 2006 found xenophobia to be widespread: South Africans do not want it to be easier for foreign nationals to trade informally with South Africa (59 percent opposed), to start small businesses in South Africa (61 percent opposed) or to obtain South African citizenship (68 percent opposed). The violence of 2008 was still shocking. The country fell into mourning; South Africans understood that the innocence of democratic transition, purposefully packaged in cotton and celebrated with confetti, had finally been taken. The mask had fallen. This was a country now reverberating under the internal schisms of rising dissent and desperation. The South African government, for its part, refused to label the violence as БxenophobicБ. Then President Thabo Mbeki, at the very end of his second term in office, said those who wanted to use the term were Бtrying to explain naked criminality by cloaking it in the garb of xenophobiaБ.

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