By Bernice James
Xenophobia is very close sister to apartheid. It is the hatred or fear of that which is foreign. It s a deep rooted dislike for foreigners according to Wikipedia.
Xenophobia can be said to be innate in the life of South Africans. No one can be blamed for that but their political system. It is not about the xenophobic violence that took place recently in this April 2015 but the previous once. It is innate in their system; from existing records one can bear witness to that. According to Wikipedia, ‘prior to 1994 immigrants from elsewhere faced discrimination and even violence in South Africa. Though much of that risk stemmed from the institutionalized racism of the time due to apartheid. After their democratization in 1994, contrary to expectation, the incidence of xenophobia increased. According to a study in 2004 based on citizen survey on member states of the South Africa Dev community SADC found South Africans expressing the harshest anti foreigner sentiment with 21% of South Africa in favour of complete ban on entry by foreigners and 64% in favour of strict limitation. The centre for study of violence and reconciliation (SVR) carried out a study in 2004 that shows the hostility of South Africa Police to foreigners in Johanes burg. It believed that 87% of undocumented immigrants are into crime, this makes police to be hostile to all foreigners which is over generalization.
In March 2007 during the War in Burundi, the Burundian home Affairs Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa Nqakula reported that the Burundian refugees in Durban are being mistreated by the South Africa Police. They steal from them and accused them of selling drugs and other crimes.
Between 2000 and March 2008, at least 67 people died in what were identified as xenophobic attacks. In May 2008 a series of riots left 62 people dead, these attacks were motivated by xenophobia! Now again in 2015.
To further prove that this fear and hatred for foreigners is now in the blood of South Africans, one can take his or her mind back to the time before 1994 (democratization / freedom time) you will remember the attacks against Eastern and southern European immigrants. It was further noted that restriction on immigration can be traced to the Union of South Africa. Another of such xenophobic was against Mozambican and Congolese immigrants who ran to South Africa in 1993 and 1997, many illegally due to unrest and civil war. Study showed they were faced with so many xenophobic attitudes and treatment. Example is that these refugees were denied access to Primary health care to which they were technically entitled.
There had been series of xenophobic attack report in South Africa even before this April 2015 attack, between 1994 and 2008 says a report from Human Rights Watch released in 1998. According to the report, in January 1995, immigrants from Malawi, Zimbabwe and Mosambique living in Alexandra township were physically assaulted.
In a campaign they called ‘Buyelekhaya’ which means ‘go back home, foreigners were marched by an armed group to the police station’. In September 1998, a mosambican and two Senegalese were thrown out of a train by a group coming back from a rally. They blame foreigners for unemployment, crime and spreading Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. In 2000, for over a period of five weeks foreigners were attacked and killed on the cape flats. Their fear was that outsiders would claim property belonging to locals and the police confirmed it was a xenophobic killing. In October 2001 of the Zandspruit settlement gave Zimbabweans 10 days to leave, when they couldn’t the citizens forcefully evicted them and their shacks burnt down. The citizens claim the Zimbabweans get employed while they remain jobless. Between December 2005 and first week of January 2006 at least four foreigners were killed in ‘Olievenhoutbosch’ settlement and their shacks burnt down after they blamed them of the death of a local man. They demanded the removal of all immigrants by the police.
In July 2006, 21 Somalian refugees were killed while 26 more were killed in August of the same year. Attacks on foreign nationals increased in Late 2007 and the most severe attacks happened between January and May 2008. One thing is common in each attack, the citizens blamed foreigners of one thing or the other; mostly of taking their jobs, using their property etc. A foreigner in a country needs to earn a living.
According to BBC News this recent attack in April 2015 which centres in Johannesburg and Durban has been blamed on a South African man called Zulu king Goodwill Zwelithini for making an incisive comment about foreign workers. It also stated that some blamed it on unemployment and poor political leadership. The Nigeria consul general on 20th April said that only two people were injured and that they have been treated. Moreso, that about 50 Nigerians were displaced but have been relocated and reinstated. Nigeria has through the foreign Affairs Minister Aminu Wali Summoned the Acting High Commissioner Martin Cobham along with the consul General Uche Ajulu Okeke for Consultation. The Commissioner acknowledged that the South African President Jacob Zuma condemned the attacks and that about 307 persons have been arrested over the attack that led to the death of seven foreigners.
In reaction to this the Nigeria Senate has decided to recall its ambassador. According to the BBC News, South Africa condemns the decision. It called the step ‘unfortunate and regrettable and said it would be curious for a sisterly country to want to exploit such a painful episode. In further response, the South Africa’s Department of International relations and co-operation points out that a government resorts to such extra ordinary Diplomatic step to express outrage at actions or behaviours of another government not of individuals. It maintained that South Africa has never blamed Nigeria for the deaths and more than nine (9) months delay in the repatriation of the bodies of their fallen compatriots. He also declared that the president has closed the parliament so that the law makers will take the message of calmness to their constituencies.
Zuma has made several efforts to convince the world that he is not in support of any xenophobic acts in his country.
On the 28th of April, Zuma wrote an open letter in Guardian African Network titled South Africa is not a xenophobic Nation. The letter was a response to the criticisms of a Mosambican writer Couto.