Human rights activists are convinced that xenophobia was brought to South Africa by colonials and adopted by the apartheid government. However the activists agree that the democratic government is implementing xenophobia institutionally.
Activists are convinced that xenophobia in our country was brought by colonials and further adopted by the apartheid regime in an attempt to divide Africans.
Speaking during a panel discussion yesterday, four panelists unanimously agreed that the democratic government was implementing the fear of foreigners in institutions.
This, according to the activists, was brought on by anti-immigrant statements inciting prejudice which had been instilled during the apartheid reign, reports The Citizen.
Sibongile Tshabalala, chairperson of Treatment Action Campaign, says that she has travelled accross the continent and has never experienced xenophobia:
“When you look at our history, xenophobia did not come after 1994. It came way before that, but because it was perpetrated by the apartheid government, it was never noticed and we never spoke about it."
The activist added that apartheid had separated people based on ethnicity, which had enstilled a hatred in black Africans, making it hard to maintain unity among them and even harder to fight against the oppressive system.
The effects of this have trickled down to the modern day, with the activist claiming that in her hometown there were sections for different ethic groups, making it easy for immigrants to be targeted.
Janet Munakwane, migrant labour expert, has called for a decolonisation project to put an end to xenophobia.
The expert feels that borders were used to keep other Africans out of South Africa, a product of the Berlin Conference which had taken place in 1885 and had aimed to divide Africa:
“There is a need to rearrange the borders. They are a product of the Berlin Conference and have nothing to do with us. There is a song I love about Azania being from Cape to Cairo, Morocco to Madagascar. That is Africa, without all these lines."
Sharon Ekambaram, head of the Refugee and Migrant Rights Programme for Lawyers for Human Rights, says that the national health insurance scheme is proof that xenophobia has been institutionalised:
“It says right there in NHI that if you do not have an ID document, you will not get health services in public hospitals. How many South Africans do not have an ID? The documentation of immigrants is itself institutionalised xenophobia."
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