Xenophobic violence in South Africa is making the news again. The NYT:
Anti-immigrant protesters led a violent march into South Africa’s administrative capital, Pretoria, on Friday, and the police responded with rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons....
The latest anti-immigrant sentiments were set off in a neighborhood south of Johannesburg called Rosettenville, where residents burned down a dozen houses that they said were being used by Nigerians as drug dens and brothels.
The attacks spread to other areas, including around Pretoria, where communities and businesses owned by foreigners have been targeted.
There's quite a history behind this:
On 12 May 2008 a series of riots started in the township of Alexandra (in the north-eastern part of Johannesburg) when locals attacked migrants from Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, killing two people and injuring 40 others....
On 30 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. Three Somali shopkeepers had been killed in June 2013 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....
In April 2015, there was an upsurge in xenophobic attacks throughout the country. The attacks started in Durban and spread to Johannesburg. Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini has been accused of fuelling the attacks by saying that foreigners should "go back to their countries". Locals looted foreigners' shops and attacked immigrants in general, forcing hundreds to relocate to police stations across the country. The Malawian authorities subsequently began repatriating their nationals, and a number of other foreign governments also announced that they would evacuate their citizens...
In October 2015 there were sustained xenophobic attacks in Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape. It as reported than more than 500 people were displaced and more than 300 shops and homes looted and, in some cases, destroyed altogether. In these attacks Muslims were specifically targeted.
From 20–23 June 2016 a wave of riots hit the City of Tshwane. Although the riots were sparked by political discontent within the ANC, Somali, Pakistani and other foreign owned shops and micro enterprises were targeted for looting and a number of foreigners were attacked.
And so on.
South Africa is the wealthiest country in Africa. It attracts migrants. The locals, often encouraged by unscrupulous politicians, sometimes take matters into their own hands to attack theses migrants, claiming that they take local jobs, bring in crime and drugs and prostitution, etc., etc.. The sorry pattern is clear enough.
Or so I thought. Now, in the Guardian, Panashe Chigumadzi explains what's really going on:
Understanding and acknowledging the root causes of the violence has been largely missing from the public discourse here in South Africa. Too often the attackers have been dismissed as “irrational”, or provoked calls for more “hospitality that defines our democratic order”, in the words of the Nelson Mandela Foundation. Both reactions seem to miss two key facts: South Africa isn’t anti-immigrant, it’s anti-black, and this violence is evidence that the “miracle” has failed the very people it should have uplifted – poor black South Africans.
Explaining why the violence is specifically anti-black or Afrophobic, the University of South Africa professor Rodney Tshaka described xenophobia as the fear of the other, while “Afrophobia is fear of a specific other: the black other from north of the Limpopo river [in other words, from Zimbabwe or Mozambique and beyond them, the rest of Africa]. If foreigners generally were the main target, those who are anti-foreigner would no doubt have sought out all foreigners and made it known that they are not welcome in this country.”
It's not easy to make sense of this. These particular migrants are being singled out because....they're black? But black Africans form the overwhelming majority of the immigrants. And besides, as we've seen, Pakistanis have been subjected to the same hatred in the past.
And the attackers are...Afrophobic? But the attackers are African. Black South Africans. Can they be "Afrophobic"? What does that even mean? Does the world really need another invented "phobia" to muddy what is in fact perfectly clear? [Yes I know - it's what academics do.]
Foreignness, or the notion of “other”, has a long, anti-black history in South Africa. Until 1994’s elections, black South Africans were not citizens of South Africa, but of “homelands” or “Bantustans”, areas where the black population was resettled under apartheid. The South Africa of postcards was the preserve of the white settler minority, who did not see themselves as part of the African continent.
It becomes clear that, for Chigumadzi, the problem isn't that (black) South Africans are xenophobic. God forbid. It's something to do with apartheid. It's the fault of the old white power structure, who inculcated the notion of "Afrophobia" into the local population. Some 23 years after the collapse of the old regime and the election to power of the ANC, any failures in the "rainbow nation" must still be referred back to those evil whites.
Only in the Guardian.
[Some good comments, though]