New Clashes Over Immigrants Sweep South Africa

People's March Anti-Xenophobia Jeppe street, Johannesburg, outside Little Ethiopia. April 23, 2015. Photo: Dyltong / CC 4.0

South Africa is currently in the midst of another wave of attacks against African immigrants. This week in Pretoria and Johannesburg, crowds shouting xenophobic slogans looted and burned down businesses and homes owned and occupied by foreigners.

Similar violence gripped the country in 2008 and 2015, when rioters killed several people and destroyed large amounts of property.

On Friday, police fired stun grenades and rubber bullets to disperse clashing crowds of anti-immigrant protesters and immigrants in the capital, following a large anti-immigrant demonstration.

Protesters blame immigrants for the country's high crime rates — particularly when it comes to prostitution and illegal drugs — and accuse immigrants of taking jobs away from South African citizens. According to estimates, roughly 2.2 million immigrants now reside in South Africa, which is one of the continent's main destinations for asylum seekers.

According to South African President Jacob Zuma, South Africans are not xenophobic, but they are are fed up with crime, he says.

Many Internet users have condemned the latest wave of attacks against immigrants, and some have offered theories about why xenophobia seems to appeal to lots of people in South Africa.

On Twitter, Leandri J van Vuuren said the whole thing boils down to the government's failure:

Lola de Lola argued that xenophobia can't solve South Africa's social problems:

“Lord Skibabs” said crime has no nationality:

Abdulrahman lamented:

Rainbow nation” was a term coined in 1994 by Archbishop Desmond Tutu to describe post-apartheid South Africa, and Nelson Mandela, South Africa's first president, later popularized the phrase.

Noting that the protests and violence have mostly targeted foreigners from African countries, Amandla wrote:

Samba Thiam, head of the Economic Bureau at the Embassy of Senegal in South Africa, shared his personal experience on Twitter:

Some argue that the term “afrophobia” should replace “xenophobia”:

Another Twitter user named Munyati suggested:

Motshubane called for a national psychological evaluation:

Al Jazeera correspondent Haru Mutasa called on journalists to educate South Africans about the role African countries played during the anti-apartheid struggle:

On Facebook, Robert Shivambu, a media manager working with Amnesty International, confessed:

Today is one of those days that I am ashamed to say that I am South African. #NoToXenophobia

Those who support the demonstrators reject the label “xenophobia.” Joe Selimo, for example, argued that South Africans are fighting drugs and prostitution, not immigration or foreign culture:

“Lemenemene” asked if it isn't the protesters’ critics who seem to embrace xenophobic notions about South Africans:

Senzo Mncwabe said South Africans simply need space:

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