For the last 3 weeks, foreigners in South Africa have been living in fear due to the xenophobic attacks that are being executed by the indigenous people. So far, in the ensuing attacks, already six people have lost their dear lives. This is a baffling event given that South Africa has been christened as a “Rainbow Nation” since the end of the apartheid regime way back in 1994.
These April 2015 xenophobic attacks are not the first ones to take place. Other xenophobic attacks notably occurred in January this year, in 2008 in which the city of Johannesburg was the hotspot and in 2006 where Cape Town was the epicenter. The 2008 xenophobic attacks left 62 dead souls. The attacks by the locals on the foreigners in April this year started in the port city of Durban. These attacks in Durban are believed to have been fueled by Goodwill Zwelithini, the king of the Zulu community. He is alleged to have said that foreigners should pack their bags and go because they are taking jobs from the citizens. However, from a different facet, the United Nations puts forth that the latest xenophobic spat was occasioned by a labor dispute between the local and the foreign workers in March of this year.
The locals have traded several accusations against the foreigners who are believed to have taken up more jobs hence living the citizens to struggle to get the fewer jobs available. Another accusation labeled against the foreigners is that they have constantly and continuously undermined the businesses that are owned by the local people and that the foreigners have led to an increase in the crime rate.
Methinks, however, that the primary precursor to these attacks is the ever increasing level of inequality between the rich and the poor inclusive of the locals and the foreigners. The escalating levels of inequality have been due to corruption that has eaten through the system for several years and poverty which has been mainly due to unemployment in the country. According to government statistics and figures the level of unemployment in South Africa is 25%. The immigrant factor arguably can also be termed as a trigger force to these violent attacks. Currently, the total number of immigrants in South Africa stands at 2 million which is 4% of the total population with the Zimbabweans forming the largest cohort of immigrants.
My hunch is that if these xenophobic attacks are not checked and properly dealt with, then in the long-run more abrasive and intense attacks that will be highly catastrophic should be anticipated albeit not being a prophet of doom and gloom. From my point of view, these attacks are a culmination of the simmering frustrations the South Africans have been experiencing since the end of apartheid that promised the Blacks a socio-economic paradise that has hardly been realized. President Jacob Zuma and his entire government are faced with an uphill task of tackling the teething problems that have engulfed most of the Black people in South Africa.
It seems that after Nelson Mandela, his successors Thabo Mbeki, Kgalema Motlanthe and presently Jacob Zuma did very little to better the lives of the majority of the Black South Africans especially those who live in the poor and marginalized areas around the cities, however, Motlanthe can be exempted as he assumed presidency for several months after the resignation of Mbeki following his failure to retain the party leadership post of the ruling African National Congress.
As several nations have begun evacuating their nationals, the daunting task President Zuma has is to lead his charges in ceasing these attacks and preventing similar ones from occurring in future by orchestrating strategies that will positively change the socioeconomic situation of the Black South Africans. The spirit of Ubuntu and the Rainbow Nation declaration slogan have certainly to be restored in this great African country. Please, South Africans stop these attacks with the same zeal that Nelson Mandela fought and won against apartheid.