What is xenophobia? Xenophobia is the fear or hatred of foreigners or people from different cultures. The affected persons respond by withdrawing from the situation to avoid foreigners. However, in extreme cases, this fear may result in verbal abuse or physical assault. In South Africa, xenophobia attacks have become increasingly violent for both foreigners and citizens; it results in casualties and deaths. There are laws that protect citizens against xenophobia, but many people seem to ignore them.
The constitution is meant to protect everyone in the country, but many people tend to take matters into their own hands. The most recent xenophobic attack that made the headlines across the continent happened on September 8th, 2019. It left over ten people dead and hundreds displaced. These attacks crippled businesses owned by foreigners and some citizens.
Xenophobia in democratic SA
Xenophobia in South Africa is majorly categorized in terms of attacks to fellow African foreigners in the country. Minimal research has been done to understand the happenings, but it seems as though it is getting worse. However, these attacks do not get the attention they deserve until violent outbreak attacks take place. These attacks have led to the displacement of foreigners. Some foreigners have also been injured and killed.
Xenophobic attacks became more prominent after 1994. The inception of the violence was brought about by the notion that African foreigners had become more economically and financially successful in comparison to the locals. According to this line of thought, the foreigners’ successes had come mainly through illegal/illegitimate means. The notion created so much tension among the people towards foreigners and migrants that by the 2008 financial crisis, it was a volcano of violence waiting to erupt. The 2008 outbreak became the first recorded xenophobic attack outbreak.
What are the effects of xenophobia
The attacks continue to cause strife and bring discord in the already straining economy. Trade, cultural, and diplomatic relations between South Africa and the rest of the continent continue to be strained. After the recent attacks, Nigeria took the initiative to evacuate its citizens who were being affected. It also led to violence against South-African based companies in Nigeria. In Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, there were protests outside the South African embassies.
The xenophobic attacks continue to creep into people’s lives because of some of the anti-foreigner sentiments said by people politicians in the government. Aaron Motsoaledi once said in a press conference,
We fought for this land...we cannot surrender it to the foreign nationals.
Herman Mashaba, who is the mayor of Johannesburg, uses foreigners as scapegoats for the crimes happening in the city. One of the few politicians who spoke against the anti-foreigner attacks was Mangosuthu Buthelezi, a Zulu veteran leader. He tried to calm the crowd he was talking to by asking them to remember the help they received from other African countries in their fight against apartheid, as he asked:
Is this how we repay them?
However, his pleas towards the angry mob fell on deaf ears.
Which laws protect citizens from human rights violations?
The preservation of human rights in any part of the world plays a key role in maintaining the peace and liberty of its citizens. In this case, equality under the law plays a key role in preserving these rights. The government and its citizens are obligated to honour and respect the Bill of Rights and the constitution for the country to run smoothly.
How does the Bill of Rights protect citizens from xenophobia
The Bill of Rights has the most fundamental rights that citizens of a country enjoy. These rights are meant to protect them against violation by public officials or private citizens.
Laws that protect citizens against xenophobia
According to Section 9 of the Constitution of South Africa,
Everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and the benefit of the law. Prohibited grounds of discrimination include race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth.
In section 12 of the constitution, everyone living in South Africa has the right to freedom and security. Therefore, no one has the right to violate or mistreat citizens for whatever reasons they presume to be right. Consequently, it is to paramount for every citizen of the country to abide by this law. The jurisdiction protects citizens of the country. For the government and other governing bodies to get to amicable solutions, it is imperative to hold dialogues to get to the root of these discriminatory acts against its people.
Laws protecting foreigners against xenophobia
The rule of law and the Bill of rights are meant to protect everyone in the country. The law applies to both citizens and foreigners nationals. ICJ Commissioner Justice Yvonne Mokgoro, a former judge of the South African Constitutional Court, said
The hard-fought rights in the Bill of Rights of our Constitution apply to everyone who lives in South Africa without exception. Whatever concerns people have must be resolved through listening and dialogue. The widespread violent attacks which seem to target people because they are not South African are cruel and inhuman. They can never be justified and must be condemned in the strongest terms possible.
How does International law protect foreigners against xenophobia
The state, under international law, is obliged to respect the basic human rights of any foreigner who has entered its territory, and any such person is under the South African Constitution, entitled to all the fundamental rights entrenched in the Bill of Rights, save those expressly restricted to South African citizens”.
In his address, he affirms that both the constitutional Bill of rights and the International law protect foreigners living in South Africa.
Does the right to Equality protect foreigners against xenophobia
Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act 4 of 2000, Protection from Harassment Act 17 of 2011, Immigration Act 13 of 2002 and Refugees Act 130 of 1998 are constitutional clauses that are meant to curb:
- Discrimination of race, gender or disability
- Hate speech
Promotion of equality and prevention of unfair discrimination act
The Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act, 2000 PEPUDA or the Equality Act, Act No. 4 inhibits any form of discrimination. The Bill prohibits discrimination on the grounds of gender, pregnancy, colour, birth, culture, race, sex, marital status, family responsibility or status, HIV/AIDS status, ethnic or social origin, sexual orientation, conscience, religion, disability, age, language, and belief.
The Rule of Law as stipulated by the constitution is what should be used to govern and make decisions on such matters affecting the country. The governing bodies should follow the laws that protect citizens against xenophobia for the sake of its people.