South Africa: From the End – to be continued…

Despite the positive outlook that the region has effortlessly achieved thanks to social development policies, the latest events taking place in the country of Nelson Mandela have put South Africa back in the spotlight, this time for not so categorical reasons: xenophobic attacks towards African immigrants in multiple cities. Hundreds of black immigrants have been forced to flee to their countries of origin in the past weeks due to xenophobic attacks propitiated by South African indignados, deeply concentrated in the city of Durban, where seven were killed on Friday 25th April. Out of the seven dead, three of them were nationals and four kwerekwere, a term used in the country when referring to African immigrants in a derogatory way. The situation has become so critical for African immigrants that the governments of Malawi, Zimbabwe and Nigeria have initiated the process of repatriation for their nationals. Despite the chaos of these days, South Africa does not face a new current of xenophobia, but it suffers a resurgence of a movement that has barely been propagated. After the apartheid, which was supposed to mean the end of an era where race categorized citizens, peace lasted little as xenophobic attacks intensified. Between 2000 and 2008, over 67 people were killed in similar outbreaks. 2008 was the year of uprisings and the record-breaking period of the twenty-first century, leaving 62 people dead behind. The situation subsides substantially after the issue was tackled by the government through dismantling the pro-xenophobic meetings in different areas of Cape Town. This prevented any incidences from happening during the 2011 World Cup. With this background, it would be easy to consider South Africa the place where racial differences are left aside, however the current economic crisis lashing the country has contributed to the resurgence of the movement. The reason for these attacks is clear and justifiable for the perpetrators: the arrival of African immigrants leaves the South Africans with less job opportunities. Real statistics show surprising results, well known by the South African population. The Migration for Work and Research Consortium (MiWORC) is in charge of examining the effect of South African immigration. Research found that only 4% of the total population aged 15-64 were “international migrants”, which are only 1,2 million out of the more than 33 million people in the country. The racial breakdown of these statistics reveal that 79% of international migrants are African, 17% are considered white and 3% are Indian or Asian. Despite these facts, only 14.86% of international immigrants are unemployed, against a 30% of nationals. This can be due to the lowering of salaries for African migrants and the working conditions. Even so, the results are rather discomforting for South Africans, especially for King Goodwill Zwelithini, King of the Zulu tribe, one of the most populous in South Africa, who has been considered by many the responsible for this year’s outrage. Three weeks prior to the attacks, King Zwelithini openly asked in Durban, “[…] those who come from outside to please go back to their countries”. After being accused, he denied such statement arguing, “if it were true that I sparked the xenophobic violence, this country would have been reduced to ashes”, referring to his influence in the country. Being the remedy worse than the disease, this last statement was unanimously criticized by the media as well. As opposed to this wave of xenophobic events, peace marches defending human rights and supporting immigrants have been propagated up and down the country, as not all South Africans feel represented by the perpetrators.


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