Violent attacks target Nigerians
Mobs in Pretoria have looted and set on fire houses belonging to immigrants, particularly Nigerians, in a new wave of xenophobic attacks in South Africa.
NAI guest researcher Mathabo Khau says that prejudice against Nigerians is common in South Africa. She says that it is fuelled by unbalanced media reports and widespread discontent related to poverty and unemployment.
“This is what happens when the majority of the black South African population don’t have better lives than they had during apartheid. Economic inequality and lack of public services, in combination with a great influx of people, is a recipe for social tension”, states Khau, who is normally based at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth.
Moreover, Nigerians are blamed for selling products more cheaply than local shops and stealing jobs from South Africans.
“The truth is that they agree to work for lower salaries than South Africans. So they don’t steal jobs; they do the work many South Africans refuse to do”, Khau says.
Victor Adetula, head of research at NAI, points out that the Nigerian government and people on the street are very disturbed by the recent events in South Africa.
“Some blame the South African government for not stopping the violence”, Adetula says.
There are rumours of an imminent demonstration against Nigerian immigrants, even one sanctioned by the police, which could trigger further violence. The Nigerian government for its part is sending a political and diplomatic mission to South Africa to help resolve the situation.
“They have to do something because people in Nigeria are clearly upset. Many are boycotting South African products and demand the government do something about the violence against family and friends”, Adetula states.
However, he points out that what is going on in South Africa should not be viewed as an isolated or unique event. Rather, nationalism and populism are a current global trend.
“Politicians have grown smarter by the day, and now they reason, if rational politics won’t get me elected, populism will”, Adetula notes.
He calls for a true pan-African discussion driven by the people.
“Leaders shaking hands and signing treaties at fancy conferences has little to do with real integration. Pan-Africanism is about unity among people, not between leaders. Happy people with access to service delivery and living under good governance don’t set their neighbours’ houses on fire”, Adetula concludes.
TEXT: Johan Sävström
More reading from the NAI library
Mean streets : migration, xenophobia and informality in South Africa / Jonathan Crush, 2015
International migrants and refugees in Cape Town’s informal economy / Godfrey Tawodzera…, 2015
Ama kwere-kwere or the fear of strangers / Bakari Ally Mohamed, 2008 (DVD)
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