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Xenophobia in SA

Thanks for the emails, sms’s, comments etc. Me and the fam are safe and sound.

Most of the targets of the attacks have been those who were already vulnerable and living in the townships/poorer parts of town. That’s no comfort to us though, because the violence seems to be spiraling out of control with no end in sight. In the news this afternoon there was a report of a businessman who was killed because he hired foreigners and parts of down Joburg are a no-go. In addition, many of us, including yours truly, have hired “foreigners” in our homes/businesses etc. and are worried about their fate and the fate of their families.

There have been all sorts of attempts to analyze what has led to the current outbreak of violence and link it to various things like the high cost of living, crime levels, lack of service delivery by the government, and a third force. Politicians are especially jumping on the “criminals taking advantage” line.

I beg to differ…while poverty, etc. may be contributing factors…what is going on is out and out xenophobia (and at the risk of generalization)….they is no way around it. The interviews I have seen on TV with mobs laughing as their victims are dying, and openly saying that foreigners will be killed if they don’t leave have no other explanation. A call-in radio show by a reputable host that I was listening to yesterday had quite a number of callers agreeing with the rampaging mobs…these foreigners need to go. A few days ago, when the violence started in Alexandria, the Democratic Alliance (an opposition party) saw it best to respond by carrying out an investigation into how many government houses have been allocated to foreigners in Alexandria. They came up with a grand total of three. This was breaking news on the radio. Never mind that the allocations were to foreigners who were permanent residents in South Africa and entitled to housing benefits. These kinds of reactions by politicians, he media, and a general lets pin the problem on everyone else especially Mugabe/Mbeki are making things worse.

This is not something that has just suddenly erupted, xenophobia in South Africa has long been documented (since immigrants started arriving post-1994)….and in my experience it is very difficult to find any African immigrant in my circle who feels integrated or genuinely welcome here….most people carve out their only little niches and circles and focus on what brought them here, because it is really difficult to become “local”…even with effort.

At the moment, there is no sense of when and how this will end…just a desperate hope that it will be soon.

EDIT: For a more comprehensive view of the situation, read this post.

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