Monday, May 12, 2008

Xenophobic South Africa

Yesterday a mob in Alexandria killed two migrants and injured at least 40 others in an attack that underscrores the troubling rise of xenophobia in South Africa.

The migrants killed and injured in this attack are from Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe.

The attackers claim that the migrants are taking their jobs and are adding to the high level of crime in the country.

500 police have been deployed in Alexandria and 15 people were arrested.

I watched a news report tonight on the state broadcaster (SABC) in which migrants who were interviewed spoke of the hatred and violence that South Africans direct at them.

The SABC showed pictures of women and men who had been severely beaten.

A few resident onlookers who weighed in on the fate of the migrants showed no pity and were adamant that the "foreigners must leave or they will be hurt."

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has condemned the attack above. President Mbeki has also raised his voice, and rightly so.

This is what the SAHRC says must be done, in part, to combat xenephobia:

"South Africa must pass a Hate Crimes law, sign and ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers and members of their Families, as one of the measures to deal with Xenophobia."

I absolutely agree. And we need to do more.

I expect, however, that there will be more attacks on migrants. We are an intolerant, racist, and xenephobic nation with a short and selective memory.

We should be better than this, for real.

What happened to the liberatory ideal that South Africa belongs to all who live in it?

How can we rain down violent oppression on the very people who welcomed us to live among them during five decades of anti-apartheid struggle?

Where is our much vaunted ubuntu (African Humanism) or is it just a slogan we sell for outside consumption?

We have a long way to go!



Dade said...

A very troubling development, indeed. How very sad. Why is it that people tend to blame other victims of unjust policy rather than the policy-makers? South Africa's poor are blaming poor immigrants, just as working-class Americans are blaming undocumented immigrants, when the real fault lies with regressive trade agreements and bad policies.

Thanks for keeping us informed, Ridwan.

Ridwan said...

Thanks for your comment brother Dade. Sorry for the late reply, I am on the road.

I have read today that attacks against migrants are going on and that Mandela has risen to offer a needed condemnation.

Peace to you,