Home » General » Africa Must Collectively Confront the Roots of Xenophobic Violence in SA

While it is important that people express their outrage, which is real in the case of xenophobia in South Africa, it is important for the debate to move beyond that point.

What this means is that there must be an interrogation of whether South Africa has an “immigration” problem, and who else in the region can help address it rather than skirting the immigration issue, which appears to be raised.

This is, in light of the reasons, which are suspected to be fuelling the attacks, however unjustifiable those reasons are for committing acts of arson, looting of foreign properties and murder by the South Africans.

There have been public admissions by stakeholders, including the African Union (AU) and Southern African Community (Sadc) chairperson President Robert Mugabe that there is a significant population of foreign African nationals in South Africa, whereas he specifically mentioned Zimbabweans, estimated to be millions in that country, during his recent visit.

The contingent of foreigners includes nationalities such as Malawians, Mozambicans, and Nigerians.

It becomes immediately clear that the rate of African immigration in South Africa has become phenomenal and noticeable.

The reality is against a background of what has been admitted as a problem of black poverty in the country caused by decades of racial segregation through the system of apartheid.

What one also gleans from the media reports is that this increasing presence of foreigners has engendered a sense of siege and acrimony among the poor and jobless South Africans as they think they have to now compete for few opportunities available to them as blacks.

They appear to see this problem, more than the racial inequalities that they are accustomed to and made to be patient with as the South African government has constant publicity of elaborate plans and policies to address them interracial unity was emphasised at the end of apartheid.

It is, however, not clear how the South African government will deal with the issue of African immigration, apart from for instance the suggested non-renewal of temporary permits that was suggested last year by the country’s Home Affairs ministry.

The move was premised on the basis that the already strained service delivery in the country was now crackling under extra-weight.

That black poverty is exhibited in areas such as Alexandra in Durban where the xenophobia attacks were remarkably pronounced.

The intended policy of deportation however was reversed after the South African government was persuaded by affected governments such as that from Zimbabwe that seem to concede their problems, and that there could be instability in their own countries should these emigrants return in a durable environment of socioeconomic collapse.

That instability which countries like Zimbabwe are trying to evade, has been bred in South Africa?

The abortive intentions of deportation, publicised by the South African authorities apart from the comments by Zulu King, Goodwill Zwelithini might have already psyched the South Africans on the perceived growing “problem” of African foreigners, which had developed organically in the previous xenophobia incidents.

It is therefore in this context that reactionary solutions such as deployment of soldiers by the South African government to suppress the sentiment, dismissing the attacks as criminal acts and international outrage even by the Sadc chairman will not address this social problem.

It is at this juncture that regional and African governments must collectively deal with the “push factors” to these immigrants, where they are easy to identify, such as in Zimbabwe’s socio-economic collapse and conflicts in some parts of the continent.

These must be addressed by serious and coordinated efforts in dealing with causes of instability and southward migration, such as war in the Sudan area, Alshabab and Boko Haram in the East and Western parts respectively. There is need to revisitunresolved questions of bad governance in the Sadc region like in Zimbabwe.

The above argument does not wink at the fact that South Africa itself has a “pull factor”, as a middle-income country in the proximity of low-income countries.

There is no doubt too, that xenophobia might be a new threat to the proposed Sadc regional integration, especially where it entails free movement, but in an environment of spatially unequal opportunities, hence the common interest that must be there to address it foundations.

This means the current xenophobic attacks in South Africa bring in new considerations for the continent and integration project as unity should apparently be preceded by an attempt to close the spatial development gap between nations to avoid disproportionate movement.

Source : Zimbabwe Standard