South Africa has a long history of xenophobia against foreign African nationals dating back to 1994

South Africans seem to have a long history of hostile treatment of foreign nationals. Since 1994, there has been a record of violence perpetrated against immigrants by South Africans and the violence has escalated over the years, raising the question: is South Africa a xenophobic country?

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In recent months, tensions between some South Africans and foreign nationals have increased. Like many countries, South Africa has foreign nationals who have left their home countries to seek refuge here, however, rising tensions in Mzansi mean that many foreigners feel unsafe.

Organizations such as Operation Dudula and some political parties such as the Patriotic Alliance and ActionSA have expressed contempt for undocumented immigrants living in South Africa.

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

These tensions led to the death of Zimbabwean national Elvis Nyati who was allegedly killed by a mob in Diepsloot, north of Johannesburg. According to SchedulesLIVE, the mob responsible for Nyati’s death went house to house inspecting the legal status of foreign nationals in the area. The mob had also blamed foreign nationals for the high levels of crime in the township.

the Daily Maverick reported that Zimbabwean nationals have now chosen to return their property to Zimbabwe out of fear for their lives. Some Zim nationals are also living in limbo since the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP) was scrapped, making their legal status uncertain until they apply for new permits.

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South Africa’s history of tensions with foreign nationals

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Recent tensions between South Africans and foreign nationals are not new and even date back to 1994, at the dawn of South Africa’s new democracy. the Daily Maverick reports that in 1994, a survey of citizens by the Southern African Migration Project showed that 21% of South Africans favored a total ban on immigrants entering the country, while 64% wanted restrictions or limitations on foreign nationals entering South Africa.

In 1995, a Buyelekhaya (homecoming) movement started in Alexandra, Johannesburg. Foreigners from Malawi, Zimbabwe and Mozambique were taken to the local police station as part of a ‘mop-up’ operation.

Between 2000 and 2006, foreign nationals were killed in Cape Town and Centurion. In Centurion, cabins of foreign nationals were also set on fire. Between 2008 and 2014, cluster attacks against Zimbabweans, Somalis and other foreign nationals took place.

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In some incidents, foreign-owned shops in the townships were looted and some were set on fire. In May 2008, violence erupted in Gauteng, Durban, KwaZulu-Natal and Cape Town, sparked by riots in Alexandra.

Attacks on foreign nationals continue to the present day with movements like Operation Dudula, with the Dudula movement now spreading across the country.

Is South Africa a xenophobic country?

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

A debate on the topic of Elvis Nyati and why Zimbabweans seem to be the target of Afrophobia in South Africa, looked at the history of the arrival of Zimbabweans in South Africa.

Chipo Dendere, Assistant Professor of African Studies at Wellesley College in the United States of America, explained that Zim nationals had been coming to South Africa to work since the 1940s, however, in the 1940s they only came here only for a short period of time, then leave.

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Dendere explains that over the years in the 2000s, the poorest Zim immigrants came to South Africa as the economic situation in the country of origin deteriorated and settled in the townships – areas that are already experiencing economic difficulties.

The influx of unskilled young Zimbabweans into an already overcrowded informal sector in South Africa is part of the problem, according to Dendere.

Human rights activist Elinor Sisulu, who also spoke at the conference, said there are undercurrents of xenophobic hostility in South Africa, reports SchedulesLIVE. Sisulu explains that Mzansi has a history of extreme violence and those 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 held accountable, it is unclear when the next wave of violence against foreigners will occur.

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MPs denounce Operation Dudula, saying it undermines the rights of foreign nationals

In brief News Earlier reported that MPs have also criticized Operation Dudula, a movement that started in Gauteng province under the guise of getting rid of undocumented foreign nationals.

The movement has now gained momentum and made its way to other provinces.

On Tuesday March 22, MPs who are part of political organizations such as the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and the ACDP called on the movements as well as another division of the movement which sprung up in Kimberly, Cape North, called “Operation Fiela”. , reports SchedulesLIVE.

Source: News in Brief