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Xenophobia Plagues South Africa

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, writes:

Political correctness has now gone too far: it's all very well talking about Xenophobia and anarchy, but why is the government so scared 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, 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:

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 – 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, looks at the larger picture:

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 and here). 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

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 who should be ubuntu 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

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 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

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

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.

  • http://shawnkimuli.com shawn kimuli

    Now I am wondering, please tell me South Africa is ready for 2010. What the nationals of South Africa have done should have repercussions that are clear. My brothers and sisters, since when did you start pretending you are embracing the world. This world is a very diminutive place. It is very funny your relatives must have been deceitful to you that they are working in the next town in South Africa. Believe me. They are expatriates in Uganda, In Kenya, Nigeria, England, India, Australia, Iraq……cite a country and I will give you verification there is a South African breathing there. Get over it and work, this is the 21 century and we survive in the “Global Village”. Not the days of “Shaka Zulu”. Your brothers and sisters are everywhere and you are a disgrace to them. The difference is in the country they live they are cherished and not clubbed to death. I hope you get off your indolent tendencies and be challenged by the way “foreigners” have managed to settle in “your country” and become better than you? On a parting short, did you guys kill your fellow Africans? Someone wake me up.

    Shawn Kimuli
    Uganda
    Proudly African.

  • Selina.Law

    Dear friends, please, please stop your attack to China. You don’t know the truth.
    Who was in China during this earthquake? Truth comes from practice but not imaged in offices.
    Chinese government does very well to protect our people. Our premier and our army, our people from all fields tried their best to save people suffered in the earthquake.

  • Selina.Law

    Dear sir,

    As a common Chinese, I sincerely hope you can give me the chance of expressing my feelings.

    Thank you.

  • bongani

    Iam so disgusted by south africans who are hating on foreigners,,,,I AM URGING FIFA TO PLEASE PLEASE REMOVE THE WORLD CUP FROM SOUTH AFRICA,UNLESS IF YOU WANT TO WITNESS A DISASTROUS WORLD CUP.
    SOUTH AFRICANS HAVE SHOWN OPENLY THAT THEY HATE FOREIGNERS SO WHY SHOULD THE WORLD CUP BE HOSTED BY THEM.I CAN ASSURE YOU THAT THE SOUTH AFRICAN GOVERNMENT HAS FAILED TO DEAL WITH THE HIGH LEVELS OF CRIME.LET THE WORLD BE HOSTED BY A NATION THAT WELCOMES ALL FOEREIGN NATIONALS .THANK YOU

  • Tafadzwa

    What boggles my mind is that as Africans we continue to simmer in ethnic hatred. Over the centuries brother sold brother to slavery. During colonialism friend sold-out friend. A few years ago it was genocide in Somalia, then Rwanda. Very recently it was black on black political killings in Kenya. When will it stop. No wonder ppl in in the “civilized” world refer to us as the Dark Continent still.

    As a Zim citizen I’ve seen many of my friends of all races migrate to S.A.whether legally or otherwise. But with these attacks there is now a clear distinction between my white, Indian & coloured friends and those that happen to be black. For them (of the other races) this is just a “Black Problem “. They are in no danger at all in the communities that they live and work in. Why? If jobs are the reason for thes killings, do these other ethnic groups not take jobs?These attacks bring shame to the entire black race’s doorstep.

    Before 1994, the same perpetrators of these “lynchings” were crying for an end to apartheid, a racist ideology.The saying goes “who feels it knows it”. Therefore the question is having been a victim of racism,how does one today turn-around to be a practitioner of it today. As Africans this shows that we are our own worst enemies, Im sorry to say.

  • Waliaula

    I think for sure South Africa has effectively disqualified itself from hosting the 2010 soccer World Cup. The kind of monstrosity and barbarity that they have displayed does not augur well for a nation expected to host a tournament of the world cup magnitude. South Africa has earned itself the title of “hostility” rather than host. It will be tragic to allow SA to host the tournament. In any case, it was granted the privilege due to FIFA’s respect for great statesman, Nelson Mandela; but evidently the mobs attacking foreigners and the lethargy of the government in acting means there is no more respect for Mandela left in SA.

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  • http://blog/myspace.com/globalcomedy Tom

    After reading the other posts, a new angle on this just came to mind. I might be way ahead of the entire U.S. media.

    While the attacks in South Africa are horrible, I have a feeling that maybe the same thing might happen in the U.S. After the Great Depression, millions of Mexicans (many U.S. citizens) were forcibly deported around 1930. This is NEVER EVER taught in schools. Also, strangely enough, it’s never talked about by the various (fill in the blank) neocon media pundits.

    Since it’s an election year, where would the govt. get the billions to deport all Hispanic people? I’ve lived in the U.K., Japan. And I’m lucky enought to travel quite a bit as well. I’ve seen this all over the world (including Mexico). When people are desperate, they’ll do and say anything they have to to survive. If your choices are stay poor in a tiny village and starve to death OR go elsewhere, which will you do? Which means IMO, all of these pundits are incredibly overpaid hypocrites. If they were in the same position, they’d do the same thing in a second. Instead, they continue to make the big neocon MSM bucks exploiting people’s fears with this racist rubbish.

    There’s “official immigration policy.” And then there’s reality.

  • Dumisani

    The South African Government is at fault

    I concede that South Africa is probably the most burdened country in Africa with a constant influx of immigrants, whether they be Migrant Workers; Asylum Seekers; Refugees or even Illegal Immigrants. But that being said, it is not the fault of these people that our border gates have become permeable. The home affairs department has failled in classifying and channelling these people to relevant destinations in proper response to this influx.

    To take it a bit further one is tantalised by the idea of holding the SA government accountable for the problems faced by southern countries. They unfortunately must shoulder the outcomes of the Past Apartheid regime. The former South African government was instrumental in the formation and sustainance of most Southern African Rebel wings which lead to deterioration of infrastructure of countries Like Angola, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and Noticably Mozambiqeu. Not only were such civil wars financed by South Africa but, the army was in some well known cases involved in agressive attacks to this countries. Shouldnt the SA Government be held accountable right now?

    Further more ordinary South Africans must remember that when they were in trying conditions their leaders and their Liberation wings sought shelter in what they call exile. that exile is our home, and their people were more than welcome to stay in our counties for as long as it took for them to be victorious.

    When similar attacks broke out in the streets of Katlegong; Boipatong & Thokoza in 1993, the government was quick to dispatch the army to calm the situation but now more than a decade later the government tells us that they needed to wait for a whole 11 days of studying the situation as they call it before realising it is serious enough to act upon. In the mean time the two powerful fathers of the nation have not even set foot on these affected areas.

    I am a South African by birth and mozambican by origin, and the current wave of racism and violence has jolted my affinity to this country I have come to know as my own. I am embarrased to call my self South African. How quick we are to forget what history teaches…

  • Michael Ziba

    Please allow me to register my dissapointment and disgust at what is happening in South Africa. Burning and Killing of foreigners.They are blaming foreigner who have gone to fill the skill shortage in that country for their suffering. after the apartheid era, every South African had a chance to upgrade themselves and upgrades their lifestyles because barriers between the blacks and whites in that country were broken.But because they behaved like pigs – even after being washed, they would still go and wallow in mud…they did not see the need to get educated and improve their lives and end their poverty. The world should not put a blind eye to this most especially that the Soccer World Cup in the year 2010 will be hosted by South Africa.That apartheid era violence ability is still in them and it only takes a small spark to trigger them into violence. In 2010, there will be more foreigners in South africa than the country has ever seen and no single foreigner will ever be safe.South africa losing a game can be a small spark that can trigger a violent event.High Cases of rape and Robbery in South Africa than in any other country should be of concern to any person and foreigners especially. Iam an african and i love africa with my whole heart but what is happening in South Africa needs attention and condemnation. If possible, its never too late, the WORLD CUP can be moved to any other country even ouside Africa. If we africans are far from being civilised, then let the people who are civilised stage it, atleast our safety will be assured. If nothing is done, in 2010 in South Africa..more lives will be lost, alot of people will be robbed, alot more will be shot. Am not a prophet of doom but thats reality. If the South African Government can not help a few foreigners who have fallen prey to their madness, how can they help alot more who will be there in 2010. Am lucky to be born, live and work in Zambia. there is more peace and it feels like heaven.

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