Falling economic standards cause xenophobia in South Africa

Reading time 3 min.

Tensions are running high in Johannesburg, South Africa, after a series of
attacks on immigrants, mostly Zimbabweans in Alexandra township north of the city. Police said three people have been killed and 40 others injured.

About 38 suspects where yesterday arrested on charges of murder and attempted murder. By last night the Public Order police unit was deployed to monitor the situation.

The attacks have sparked fears that xenophobia is on the rise, particularly because foreigners are accused of “stealing” jobs. Some of those who were attacked were Zimbabweans who are often accused by residents of contributing to the country’s high crime rate.

In April, shacks belonging to Zimbabweans were looted and set on fire.

Reports say the City of Johannesburg has called on communities to act in a responsible manner and remain calm.

“Johannesburg has a long history of peaceful co-existence between South Africans and foreign nationals. For years, we have stayed, worked, played and worshipped God together. Ours has been and will continue to be an
inclusive city.

“The city has a policy on managing migration and seeks to ensure that all
those who live within its jurisdiction abide by the country’s laws and are
treated fair in keeping with the country’s human rights guidelines,” said
city spokesman Gabu Tugwana.

A migrant’s desk was established in 2007 to assist migrant communities with a wide range of services including advice on how to access services and information about economic and social opportunities.

Speaking at a press conference held in Johannesburg Young Communist League (YCL) International relation secretary George Rapele said that the xenophobic attacks undermines international struggles and solidarity.

YCL is a Youth Wing of the South Africa Communist Party (SACP), a partner in the Tripartite Alliance consisting of the ANC and the Congress of South African Trade Union.

“We believe these actions have no credence and role in our society. We further believe that foreign nationals should not be viewed and treated as inferior beings, but as equal human beings that need to be treated with respect and dignity,” he said.

YCL has launched a campaign to collect clothes and blankets for the Zimbabweans based at the Central Methodist Church after recent brutal raids by Police Services

Rapele said that the underlying cause of xenophobia was the intolerable levels of poverty, unemployment and crime, and the shortage of housing in poor communities. “People’s frustration is understandable, but there can be no excuse for placing the blame for these problems on immigrants who have been forced to flee from even worse conditions in other parts of Africa, especially Zimbabwe.

“The poor working-class South African and immigrant people have a common interest in fighting to improve their conditions, and fighting each other will only make their problems even worse,” he said.

The Zimbabwe Exiles Forum (ZEF) condemned the attack and called on the South African government to take action against increasing violence against foreigners.

“We are asking the South African government to do something about this because it is spiralling out of control. There is a general perception of foreign nationals as criminals, which is untrue,” said a ZEF official.

Xenophobic violence has escalated in South Africa as foreigners are accused of contributing to the high crime rate and of taking scarce jobs away from South Africans.

South Africa is a popular destination for economic migrants and refugees
throughout the region and elsewhere on the African continent, who seek
employment in the country.

Two people were burnt to death and almost a thousand left homeless in March when the homes of a community of foreigners were burnt down outside the capital, Pretoria.

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