Xenophobic attacks against foreigners have again begun in South Africa. Videos doing round on the internet and in social media platforms shows foreigners being attacked. The locals accuse foreigners of taking their jobs.
South Africa has had issue with xenophobic attacks against foreign nationals for along time, some going back before their independence in 1994. In fact the independence nearly plunged the country into a civil war.
Recent xenophobic attacks occurred in 2008, 2015 and 2016.
Researcher Loren B Landau answered the question of why it has taken too long for xenophobic violence against migrants in South Africa to goes away.
Why? Firstly, both the government and civil society are culpable. The government continues to sideline xenophobic violence the same way it does most violence affecting poor South African communities.
It has naturalized anti-outsider violence by blaming it variously on criminality or the natural resentment poor South Africans feel towards those they perceive as “stealing” opportunities from them.
South African coverage of migrants falls into what the president of the global Ethical Journalism Network, Aidan White, recently noted was a trend towards “victim journalism” in global migration coverage.
The accounts of migrants described in White’s article are very recognizable in South Africa. Many of the accounts offered by South African civil society and scholars rapidly descend into a parade of miseries and indignities. As if the more people suffer, the more deserving they are of not only sympathy, but a place in a hosting country. It’s as if the only way one is allowed to stay is if you completely deserve pity.
It’s true: there are many stories of victimization. But there are a host of other accounts that reflect a complexity often ignored in the simple narratives.
There are also thoughtful, patriotic South Africans convinced xenophobia is socially just. For them, overcoming apartheid’s legacy means redirecting resources and opportunities to the citizens who most suffered from it. For them, sharing the country’s wealth and urban space with “others” can only frustrate a transformation agenda that has been too slow to bear fruit.