Xenophobia: Violence Erupts in South Africa

In the wake of economic turmoil in neighboring countries, South Africa has experienced a spike in immigration in recent years. Zimbabwe alone has seen an exodus of over 2 million, with many people looking for a better life in South Africa. This influx of immigrants and refugees has led to violence, looting and murder in some of South Africa’s poorest areas.

In the past week over 40 people have been killed and 28,000 made homeless as anti-immigrant violence has escalated in the townships surrounding Johannesburg and Cape Town. South African President Thabo Mbeki approved the deployment of the army Wednesday to help stop the attacks. While the army has been doing its best to subdue to the uprising, several antagonists have resorted to extreme guerrilla tactics including “necklace” lynching. Necklacing is when a car tire is filled with gasoline set ablaze around someone’s neck. The horrific tactic was a common tool of those in support the South African apartheid government, used to instill fear and quell the rebellion of South African people. Today, it’s function is similar – it is an oppressive tool used to frighten and intimidate those who would dare come to South Africa looking for a better life. So far, over 400 people have been arrested for crimes ranging from murder and property damage, to looting and causing a public disturbance. Contributions from community groups, churches and activists within the affected communities have also helped diffuse the situation.

What role can the African Union take to prevent situations like these from erupting? Deploying the army will not make up for the economic turmoil that is throwing these people into conflict. Also- the Cnn.com article on this issue seems to place blame on Zimbabwe via. Robert Mugabe. Is this justified?

5 Comments to ‘Xenophobia: Violence Erupts in South Africa’:

  1. Dreyer Smit on 23 May 2008 at 5:33 am: 1

    In my opinion many South Africans are xenophobic towards Zimbabweans. In South Africa, most of the violent crime commited here are either Mozambiqans, Nigerians or Zimbabweans. We’re tired of seeing opportunistic foreigners who doesn’t love our country as we do, ruin and destroy it. In my view they are too lazy to fix their own country, so why do we need to let them stay here. They get the same treatment as South Africans from the government, free housing, free medical care etc. and tax paying South Africans has to sit with this burden while these foreigners just live the happy life. 5 Million or more foreigners are getting jobs, eating food, and living in houses that are supposed to go to real South Africans. They should just go back to their countries, and leave us in peace….we don’t want them here.

  2. Pierce on 23 May 2008 at 1:30 pm: 2

    That’s an interesting perspective – one you hear echoed throughout the developed world. In America, the immigrant antagonists are “Mexicans,” In the UK, they’re “Pakkies” – a broad term for immigrants from the middle east. Your stereotypes of Zimbabweans and Nigerians as being “lazy”, “mooching” off the South African dream is misguided.

    We need to ask ourselves, what is making these people leave their homes? It’s certainly not because they’re lazy.. they come here to work!! We live in a world that builds super-powers like South Africa, Europe, Japan and the US, off the backs of poor Africans, Caribbean’s and Mexicans. Our prosperity is directly related to their underdevelopment. So the solution is not closing the door to people in underdeveloped countries.. quite the opposite. We need to make it a priority to support the economies of Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Nigeria, so they don’t have to leave homes to keep from starving. In South Africa, the African Union should play an integral role in solidifying this type of “Ujamaa” style cooperative economics.

  3. kameelah on 23 May 2008 at 1:56 pm: 3

    this whole situation hurts my heart and everyday i am worried about my friends. i am worried about myself going in july. i am worried about our collective mentality–the fact that poor people are directing their anger at other poor and vulnerable people…the fact that immigrants are being scapegoated for a global economic crisis in part instigated by the iraq war, structural adjustment programs in south africa under the ANC beginning in 1994 (yes, folks are poorer NOW than under apartheid–maybe we should focus on inflexible and uncaring governments), etc.

    i am at work so i will be brief and come back to this. a few comments/questions/ponderings:

    a) during the apartheid era when black south africans were struggling against white rule, black south africans did not have a problem accepting help, weapons and training from their brothers and sisters zim, mozambique etc. in fact, it was through this solidarity that the apartheid regime was finally brought down

    b) folks in zim aren’t lazy–folks are fighting and loosing their lives daily–take a look at this photos (http://www.sokwanele.com/thisiszimbabwe/) and think about the fact that the zim people worked to finally get an election after decades of mugabe’s regime

    ill come back to this shortly

  4. Ishmaelthebanned on 23 May 2008 at 7:22 pm: 4

    lol, blocked again?

  5. Larry on 26 May 2008 at 12:00 am: 5

    What a big bloody mess. As usual. Just the way it always goes down in Africa.
    Nothing but heartbreak and sorrow.

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Published on May 22, 2008 at 12:37 pm. 5 Comments.
Filed under Africa,violence.