Xenophobic attacks leave migrants living in fear

Government’s relationship with allies turns sour.
Riots against foreign nationals erupted in Pretoria and spread to Johannesburg this week where more than 50 shops and several vehicles were destroyed. Picture: Michele Spatari, AFP/Getty Images

A wave of xenophobic attacks in South Africa has left migrants living in fear of their lives and soured the government’s relationship with its regional counterparts.

The violence erupted last week after a South African taxi driver was allegedly shot dead by a suspected Nigerian drug dealer in the capital, Pretoria, and saw scores of foreign-owned shops being looted and torched. The attacks spread to Johannesburg, the economic hub, this week and more than 50 shops and several vehicles were destroyed.

“My fear is dying from being beaten,” Kadiye Mohamed, 28, a Somalian store owner who’s lived in South Africa for nine years, said in an interview in Johannesburg. “That is no way to die, especially at the hands of your fellow Africans. I ask myself what we have done to make them so angry.”

Read: Xenophobic attacks shame South Africa as regional leaders meet

Nigeria’s Buhari to despatch envoy to South Africa over violence

South Africa is Africa’s most-industrialised economy and is a magnet for many residents of poorer nations on the continent who relocate in search of a better life. But their increased prevalence in several poor areas has sparked resentment among locals, who see them as competitors for jobs, business opportunities and affordable housing.

The country has seen sporadic attacks on migrants, the worst of which occurred in 2008, when about 60 people were killed and more than 50 000 forced from their homes. Another seven people died in an outbreak of xenophobic violence in 2015.

Metal rod

“I have nine stitches on my head because they hit me over the head with a metal rod and I became unconscious. I woke up in hospital,” Nigerian tailor Chibundu Kalu, 38, who’s lived in South Africa for 13 years, said. “I hope the police can protect us and our businesses better.”

President Cyril Ramaphosa condemned the violence “in the strongest terms” and said he was convening a meeting of his security ministers to make sure it was halted.

“Whatever concerns or grievances we may have, we need to handle them in a democratic way,” Ramaphosa said on Twitter. “There can be no justification for any South African to attack people from other countries.”

Moussa Faki Mahamat, the chairman of the African Union, and officials from Nigeria and Zambia expressed outrage at the attacks, which erupted days before the African edition of the World Economic Forum in Cape Town. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari will send a “special envoy” to South Africa for talks with Ramaphosa.

Lungelo Dlamini, the police spokesman, said 76 people had been arrested in Johannesburg on Monday and faced charges of public violence and looting.

‘Somewhere else’

Somalian trader Gabeyre Hasan, 53, who moved to South Africa 26 years ago, isn’t convinced that the authorities can or will tackle the xenophobia scourge.

“When this evil happened in 2015, we decided as a family that we would be working towards making a home elsewhere outside of South Africa because our friends and neighbours want to kill us every five years,” he said. “That is no way to live. I’m taking my family somewhere else.”

Nigerian Bunkechukwu Okafor, 36, who has lived in South Africa for 15 years and runs a business repairing mobile phones in Johannesburg that employs several locals, said he’ll have to decide on his future plans once the violence ends.

“Over the past few days, we saw our own customers, some who we have fixed their devices on credit because they needed it to find work, breaking my store and stealing my stock and equipment,” he said. “I have known some of these people for more than five years and all of a sudden they want me to go back to my country.”

© 2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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It is a very small majority of individuals who want to understand and explain contemporary phenomena. Most spectators will be satisfied with the usual explanations of anarchy, looting, an ill-equipped police force, illegal migrants, competition for jobs, unemployment etc.

There is a more worrying explanation that underlies these instances of xenophobia. It is a well-known fact in socio-economics that economic decline leads to a deterioration of social cohesion. When people are confronted with the uncomfortable realities of poverty they inevitably look for someone to blame. When people experience a worsening of their material position they also tend to migrate downwards on Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs. People lose their sense of morality, fellowship and sense of compassion when they are unsure where their next meal will come from.

In this case, the migrants are the “surge protectors”. They are in the “front lines” so to speak. We have to ask ourselves the following question: If we had no migrants in South Africa, what minority group would then be the target of these acts of frustration?

No request for calm or even superior police presence can stop these acts of “self-expression” in a violent manner. Economic growth and employment opportunities are the only solutions. Therefore, the ANC is the problem. The ANC itself is responsible for the high levels of unemployment and poverty. The ANC is responsible for the shameful xenophobic attacks on foreigners.

I could be mistaken but these xenophobic attacks seems to be a ‘Black’ phenomenon. Xenophobia is a form of discrimination so why does it get so little attention and why has ‘Black South Africa’ not been making any effort to correct this scourge since 2009 and even earlier? Are they spending too much time looking for faults in others and blaming others instead of acknowledging their own faults and working ion them? None of the well-known people (e.g. King Swelithini) has ever been brought to book for endorsing hatred towards other Africans. Do we live in a country where Black-on-Black discrimination and violence is just brushed under the carpet yet the racial hypocrites get self-righteous with other races?

I don’t think this is about race or even jobs – it is about wealth.

The majority, who remain dirt poor, despite the fact that they overthrew apartheid have seen, instead of an improvement in their own lives, other Africans starting businesses and accumulating wealth.

So now people in the townships resent their fellow Africans – who have zero political power, yet have amassed wealth – or at least an illusion of wealth.

The mobs certainly include agitators and actual criminals, organised or petty.

During recent protests and uprisings in Venezuela a journalist from the Guardian spoke to one of the looters, who it turned out, was in fact a normal guy. He was looting, he explained, because in the chaos of that country he was unsure where the next day’s food would come from.

A person who understands this desperation and uncertainty very well is Julius Malema, who is channeling the anger of the masses towards whites. Read his Twitter feed, which is filled with incitement, hate and greed.

Like Sensei above says, if not for the foreign Africans, who knows. Perhaps that car guard from wherever deserves a tip.

Read the old books from the dawn of colonialism and before.

Nothing has changed.

There would be more jobs if Malema would not frighten potential investors

Africans always look for solutions in others having to change not themselves.
Claims against Nigerians being heavily involved in drugs and prostitution are often correct, Zimbabweans and Mozambiqans in cash-in-transit heists etc etc.
However the biggest problem lies with local Africans who often have fake qualifications, are under educated , lazy and have huge entitlement delusions.
These foreign nationals who have opened shops work hard and are innovative,
with locals it’s just gimme, gimme. gimme.

End of comments.

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