Xenophobia in South Africa: Understanding and stopping these attacks
Recently, three South African cities including Johannesburg and Pretoria have been targets in the destruction of foreign-owned businesses and the killing of foreigners in the country. These were all devastating attacks attributed to Xenophobia.
In a strike back, Nigeria evacuated 488 of its citizens residing there, recalled the high commissioner and blacklisted the World Economic Forum on Africa summit in Capetown.
Before we delve fully into the recent attacks in South Africa and how to stop them, it is critical you understand the meaning of Xenophobia.
Xenophobia is the fear or hatred of that which is perceived to be foreign or strange. In a simpler modern context, it is the deep-rooted fear towards foreigners or the fear of the unknown. It includes derogatory name-calling, harassment, and physical attacks.
Contrary to popular belief, Xenophobic attacks have occurred all over the world including countries as Mexico, Brazil, Japan, Colombia, Israel, Thailand, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, France, Germany, Russia, Australia, Canada, and the United States.
Hence it is not limited to South Africa. With the said definition and examples, is Xenophobia different from racism?
Yes, it is. While racism is based on physical characteristics, Xenophobia is based on a belief of a notion towards a specific set of individuals.
The question now is…
What causes xenophobic attacks especially in South Africa?
Must brothers stand against their own very brothers and siblings? What’s it all about?
Most xenophobic attacks in South Africa are made on the assumption that foreigners contribute largely to the low socioeconomic growth of the country. The attackers believe the unemployment rate is high due to the ‘oppressive and take-over moves’ by these foreigners.
However, studies have shown otherwise.
South Africa has a low percentage of international migrants. For instance, 2011 statistics reported only 2.1 million international migrants out of a population of 51.7 million living in South Africa. This means the indigenes cause and contribute most of the problems in the country.
Beyond this fact, South Africa is already impeded by corruption, shortage of high-end skills and weak investment levels.
South Africa is also plagued by the uneven distribution of wealth and economic advantages. A review by World Bank shows the richest 10% of South Africans held approx 71% of net wealth in 2015; the bottom 60% held only 7% of the same wealth. This statistic has seldom changed in recent years.
Can Xenophobic attacks be stopped?
Anything and Everything that has a beginning has an ending ~ take me for my ‘word’; it is incontrovertible!
This depends solely on the beliefs of the population. But sadly, it could take a longer time.
A significant share of the local South African population holds anti-immigrant views. A 2018 Survey showed that one in ten adults living in South Africa has never taken part in violent activities against immigrants – but would be willing to do so.
This means millions of ordinary South Africans are ready to engage in discriminatory behavior against foreigners.
Solutions to xenophobic attacks in South Africa and beyond
Possible solutions to include:
- Strengthening the immigration laws: This will control the influx of foreigners, especially illegal migrants.
- Good management of the economy of other migrant countries: This strategy is straightforward. If other countries are socially and economically sound, there would be little or no migration to South Africa.
- There should also be intensive education and awareness for South Africans on how to live and deal with foreigners in a positive manner.
As an African and human, you can also prevent Xenophobic attacks by loving one another, avoid stoking fires on social media and stop hate speeches.
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