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Xenophobia Plagues South Africa

Categories: Sub-Saharan Africa, South Africa, Ethnicity & Race, Human Rights

Extremely violent attacks on foreigners in South Africa in the last days have stirred the entire South African media and of course… blogs. Individual bloggers question whether the government is right to call these attacks “xenophobic”, and criticize the media for being too event-driven to address the causes behind the violence.

Here's a round up of what some South African bloggers are saying:

Don Edwards, blogging from Johannesburg at Insights and Rants [1], writes:

Political correctness has now gone too far: it's all very well talking about Xenophobia [2] and anarchy, but why is the government so scared [3] of calling the rioting what it is: racism!?

These people are being killed because they are “foreigners”, and therefore we call it Xenophobia, only because it is politically incorrect to call it racism. Normally Mr Mbeki is quick to use the race card, but I suppose because there are no whites involved he can't see it for what it is. What an idiot! People are suffering and dying while the leadership dithers and keeps silent.
If they do nothing for much longer then we can refer to the process as “ethnic cleansing”, another traditional SA sport.

In The News [4], a South African-based all-Africa group blog, discusses the effect of these attacks on South Africa's 2010 hopes:

Has anyone given much thought about how the current xenophobia attacks in townships in South Africa could affect South Africa’s preparations for the FIFA World Cup in 2010? The whole world is seeing pictures and videos of the attacks and it can not paint a pretty picture at all. Crime has always been a huge issue about South Africa hosting the world cup but the world was assured that everything possible would be done so that crime does not affect this world event in 2010. Now with the scenes being beamed across the world from townships in Johannesburg, one wonders why South Africa can not stop this current crime sweeping across them.

Fine, the xenophobia attacks are happening in the townships where the poor are so that should not affect 2010 right? Wrong. Any form of crime in South Africa is a negative to how the world portrays South Africa be it crime in the townships or crime in the leafy suburbs. Crime is a national issue in South Africa and just because it is happening in the townships does not mean it should be ignored.

The government has to act and act quickly to find a solution to these xenophobia attacks. There have been calls for there to be more police deployed to stop these attacks but the police say they do not have enough resources to deploy more people than they already have. There have been calls for the South Africa army to step in and help or take over from the police. South Africa is not at war with anyone so the army is available to assist in times like this. The fear is that these attacks could escalate and get out of control. The government has an opportunity to act now and try stop these attacks. Or do they want to wait until it really gets out of hand before they act? This reminds me of the electricity situation. The government had time to act and resolve the crisis long ago, but did nothing about it. Instead they are now fighting against something they could have prevented. Don’t they just learn from past mistakes?

“No human being deserves to be treated like that,” writes Charmed at My Digital Life [5]:

I admit I'm not one to get all worked up about political issues or how incompetent our government is, but I certainly think the xenophobic attacks are uncalled for. No human being deserves to be treated that way.

I agree with OS [6] – it all comes down to those who lack mentality. With that kind of behaviour its no surprise that the Zimbabweans or Mozambicans or whoever are getting employed here.

My sister employs a Zimbabwean girl as her domestic worker and she's so well spoken, friendly, civilized.. unlike some South Africans I've come across with loads of attitude and think the world still owes them since apartheid.

If everyone cared and nobody cried
If everyone loved and nobody lied
If everyone shared and swallowed their pride
We'd see the day when nobody died

Chorus from If Everyone Cared by Nickelback

Herman, a blogger at Contraflow [7], looks at the larger picture [8]:

The media's reporting of these events has as usual been largely event-driven, with little attempt yet to understand them as part of larger socio-economic circumstances and policies (although there has been some good analyses, for instance here [9] and here [10]). While front pages such as the one posted here (the Cape Town-based newspaper Cape Times, owned by the Independent group) raise familiar questions regarding the ethics of the representation of violent acts, there is also an imperative for the media to analyse these events holistically, as part of the precarious living conditions of the poor in the country and political response they demand. Journalism should be at its best when it defends human dignity and respect for life. This is such a time.

Sokari sees the violence as an indication of South Africa's fragility [11]

The media and the government are naming the violence as xenophobia but the reality is that people have reached boiling point after 14 years of dashed hopes and have now turned on the most vulnerable in their communities, refugees, and foreigners to vent their frustration. This in no way justifies the violence but does go some way to explain the fragility of the country.

Nicole does not believe the atrocities committed by her fellow citizens [12] who should be ubuntu [13] experts:

Over the past few weeks, xenophobic attacks on Zimbabweans, Malawians, Zambians, Ugandans, Rwandans, Burundians, Mozambicans, and many other African illegal (and legal!) migrants who are living near Johannesburg on the East Rand, have been on the increase.

It blows me away that my fellow countrymen and women can with one breath decry the atrocities in Zimbabwe, and with the next perpetrate their own. It blows me away that people who should be experts at ubuntu can demonstrate anything but. It blows me away that a problem I considered to be purely a first-world problem exists on my own doorstep (as it were…. Jo'burg is a good 1400kms or 870 miles). It blows me away that in this rainbow nation of ours, where thousands have fought, shed blood and died for the right for us to treat each other with the respect due another human being, for the right to express our equality, my fellow countrymen and women would perpetrate such hate crimes.

And an angry post from ZimStallion [14]

Alright, jokes aside. This is something that REALLY pisses me off.

Xenophobia, for those that have lived under a rock their entire life, is the jealous hatred of foreigners living in one's country…

Q: Why have so many Zimbabweans desperately flooded into South Africa?
A: Because there is a shithead President in Zimbabwe who beats the living daylights out of them for no good reason.

Q: Why is there a shithead President in Zimbabwe?
A: Because there is also a shithead President in South Africa, who stops the rest of the world from putting a bullet through his head.

Q: Why do shithead South African citizens take it out on poor innocent Zimbabwean refugees?
A: Because shithead South Africans are lazy, and are used to having things handed to them on a plate, whereas a Zimbabwean will actually work for something. This is the reason a Zimbabwean is chosen for a job over Joe South African.

Christ, South Africa, I'll explain this as simply as possible so that you get it into your thick skulls: Get your shithead President to stop shielding the shithead Zimbabwean President, and we will ALL fuck off back home in a split-second. Then you can have your shitty jobs and shitty country back. Because if we had a choice, we wouldn't be here.

From Jacaranda FM [15] blog:

Foreign nationals in Alexandra, North of Jo’burg, are begging police to deport them back to their home countries following the recent outbreak of Xenophobia. According to Alexandra police, about a thousand refugees are being housed in tents at the police station whilst several organizations have donated blankets, food and other necessities.

And finally… Dispatch Now [16]

DispatchOnline has set up a dedicated blog for readers to share their experiences of xenophobia, racism and other forms of intolerance. Share your views and stories at http://blogs.dispatch.co.za/surviving [17]

Across all media and social media channels, the xenophobic attacks have been condemned, unfortunately the government seems to be dragging it's feet again and mumbling about semantics instead of doing something concrete about the situation.