South Africa Has A Long History of Xenophobia Against African Foreign Nationals Goes Back As Far As 1994

South Africa Has A Long History of Xenophobia Against African Foreign Nationals Goes Back As Far As 1994

South Africans seem to have a long history of treating foreign nationals with hostility. Since 1994, there is a record of violence being perpetrated against immigrants by South Africans and the violence has been exacerbated over the years which raises the question: Is South Africa a xenophobic country?

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In the past few months, tensions between some South Africans and foreign nationals have been on the rise. Like many countries, South Africa has foreign nationals who have left their home countries to seek refuge here, however, the rising tensions in Mzansi have a lot of foreigners feeling unsafe.

Organisations such as Operation Dudula and some political parties such as the Patriotic Alliance and the ActionSA have been very vocal about their contempt for undocumented immigrants living in SA.

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SA xenophobia, Elvis Nyati, Zimbabwe, expert input, Operation Dudula
SA xenophobia, Elvis Nyati, Zimbabwe, expert input, Operation Dudula
Source: Getty Images

Such tensions led to the death of Zimbabwean national Elvis Nyati who was supposedly killed by a mob in Diepsloot, North of Johannesburg. According to TimesLIVE, the mob responsible for Nyati's death was going from house to house inspecting the legal status of foreign nationals in the area. The mob had also blamed foreign nationals for the high crime levels in the township.

The Daily Maverick has reported that Zimbabwean nationals have now opted to send their possessions back to Zimbabwe out of fear for their lives. Some Zim nationals are also now living in limbo since the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP) has now been scrapped, making their legal status uncertain until they apply for new permits.

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The history of South Africa's tension with foreign nationals

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The recent tensions between South Africans and foreign nationals are not new and can even be traced back as far as 1994, the dawn of South Africa's new democracy. The Daily Maverick reports that in 1994, a Southern African Migration Project citizen survey showed that 21% of South Africans were in favour of a total ban on immigrants entering the country, while 64% wanted restrictions or limitations on foreign nationals entering SA.

In 1995, a Buyelekhaya (go back home) movement kicked off in Alexandra, Johannesburg. Foreigners from Malawi, Zimbabwe and Mozambique were marched to the local police station as part of a "clean up" operation.

Between 2000 and 2006 foreign nationals were killed in Cape Town and Centurion. In Centurion, the shacks of foreign nationals were also burned down. Between 2008 and 2014 cluster attacks on Zimbabweans, Somalians and other foreign nationals occurred.

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In some incidents, shops owned by foreigners in the townships were looted and some were set alight. In May 2008, violence broke out in Gauteng, Durban, KwaZulu-Natal and Cape Town which was sparked by riots in Alexandra.

The attacks on foreign nationals continue to the present day with movements like Operation Dudula, Dudula Movement now spreading across the country.

Is South Africa a xenophobic country?

The Merriam-Webster website explains that xenophobia is a “fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign.”

A debate on the topic of Elvis Nyati and why Zimbabweans seem to be targets of Afrophobia in South Africa, looked into the history of Zimbabweans coming into South Africa.

Chipo Dendere, assistant professor of Africana studies at Wellesley College in the United States of America explained that Zim nationals have been coming to SA for work since the 1940s, however, in the 1940s they would only come here for a short period of time and then leave.

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Dendere explains that as the years went on in the 2000s, poorer Zim immigrants came to SA as the economic situation of the home country worsened and settled in townships - areas that are already experiencing economic struggles.

The surge of younger, unskilled Zimbabweans into an already crowded informal sector in South Africa, is part of the problem, says Dendere.

Human Rights activist Elinor Sisulu, who was also a speaker at the lecture, stated that there are strands of xenophobic hostility in South Africa, reports TimesLIVE. Sisulu explains that Mzansi has a history of extreme violence and the people responsible for the violence have not been held accountable and that is what we are seeing now with xenophobic attacks.

If South Africa's xenophobic attacks continue to go unchecked, with people not being held accountable there is no telling when the next surge of violence against foreigners will occur.

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Members of Parliament slam Operation Dudula, say it infringes on rights of foreign nationals

Briefly News previously reported that Members of Parliament have also criticised Operation Dudula, a movement that began in the Gauteng province under the guise of getting rid of undocumented foreign nationals.

The movement has now picked up momentum and has inched its way into other provinces.

On Tuesday, 22 March, MPs who are part of political organisations such as the Inkatha Freedom Party(IFP) and the ACDP have called out the movements well as another division of the movement that popped up in Kimberly, Northern Cape called 'Operation Fiela', reports TimesLIVE.

Source: Briefly News

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