South Africans attack foreigners – say no to Xenophobia

A decade filled with Xenophobic attacks and the South African government is incapable of containing a situation where shops and homes owned by Somalis, Zimbabweans, Ethiopians, Malawians and other immigrants have been targeted, forcing families to flee to camps protected by armed guards.

Any form of violence should have been condemned in the strongest possible terms by our government and no amount of inequality, frustration or anger can ever justify the attacks on people. It seems that South African politicians and law enforcement agencies are paralysed by this situation and it is a disgrace that it took the ruling African National Congress party more than two weeks to condemn the xenophobic attacks and brand them as “criminal acts against vulnerable people” (for what it’s worth: why does the ANC not condemn the “regular” attacks of rape, murder, theft, hijacking, robbery in the same strong terms?)


Violence flared up two weeks ago after Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini said in remarks reported by media that foreigners should leave South Africa. Add to this recent remarks from President Zuma’s son Edward and you have fuelled an already volatile community:

… we are also unnecessarily accommodating illegal immigrants in this country…

In the last few days alone, six people have been killed in the violent protests which started two weeks ago in Durban and is now spreading to Johannesburg and the rest of the country. In the latest show of violence a few hundred protesters, shouting that they wanted immigrants to leave South Africa, pelted passing vehicles and the South African police with rocks and bottles.

South African police responded to the wave of protests (Marikana massacre anyone?), which are motivated by the large number of immigrants and high unemployment rates, by firing rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the crows.

President Zuma responded in typical “there is nothing to see here” notion and the South African government only acknowledged this as being an issue weeks later, without a tangible solution in sight. Remember, that we had those clashes a few weeks back in Soweto and South African politicians tend to forget the history of Xenophobic attacks over the last decade:

  • September, 1998: a Mozambican and two Senegalese were thrown out of a train. The assault was carried out by a group returning from a rally that blamed foreigners for unemployment, crime and spreading AIDS.
  • 2000: Seven foreigners were killed on the Cape Flats over a five-week period in what police described as xenophobic murders possibly motivated by the fear that outsiders would claim property belonging to locals.
  • October 2001: Residents of the Zandspruit informal settlement gave Zimbabweans 10 days to leave the area. When the foreigners failed to leave voluntarily they were forcefully evicted and their shacks were burned down and looted. Community members said they were angry that Zimbabweans were employed while locals remained jobless and blamed the foreigners for a number of crimes. No injuries were reported among the Zimbabweans.
  • December 2005: At least four people, including two Zimbabweans, died in the Olievenhoutbosch settlement after foreigners were blamed for the death of a local man. Shacks belonging to foreigners were set alight and locals demanded that police remove all immigrants from the area.
  • August 2006: Somali refugees appealed for protection after 21 Somali traders were killed in July of that year and 26 more in August. The immigrants believed the murders to be motivated by xenophobia, although police rejected the assertion of a concerted campaign to drive Somali traders out of townships in the Western Cape.
  • January 2008: Two Somali shop owners were murdered in the Eastern Cape towns of Jeffreys Bay and East London
  • March 2008: Seven people were killed including Zimbabweans, Pakistanis and a Somali after their shops and shacks were set alight in Atteridgeville near Pretoria.
  • May 2009: Reports emerged regarding a possible resurgence of xenophobic related activity and the organising of attacks in the Western Cape. Reports of threats and secret meetings by local businessmen surfaced in Gugulethu, Khayelitsha and Philippi, Cape Town.
  • July 2012: New attacks in parts of Cape Town and in Botshabelo in the Free State.
  • May 2013: 25-year-old Abdi Nasir Mahmoud Good, was stoned to death. The violence was captured on a mobile phone and shared on the Internet.
  • June 2013: Three Somali shopkeepers had been killed and the Somali government requested the South African authorities to do more to protect their nationals. Among those murdered were two brothers who were allegedly hacked to death.The attacks led to public outcry and worldwide protests by the Somali diaspora, in Cape Town, London and Minneapolis.
  • June 2014: A Somali national, in his 50s, was reportedly stoned to death and two others were seriously injured when the angry mob of locals attacked their shop in extension 6 late on Saturday. Three more Somalis were wounded from gunshots and shops were looted.
  • January 2015: The looting at Snake Park (foreigners stores only) spread to Emdeni, Zola and Protea Glen. 14 year old Siphiwe Mahori was shot in the neck at Snake Park’s Raso Supermarket. Overnight, violence spread to Dobsonville and Mapetla, where another man was shot dead while a store was looted.


South Africa - Xenophobia