Xenophobia’ perpetuates more violenc

2017-03-08 06:03
PHOTO: OMEGA MOAGINigerian Union in South Africa CEO Ekwealor Thomas (left) and fellow member Samuel Umon, gave the Pacsa roundtable meeting on xenophobia a thumbs up for being proactive in preventing attacks before they spread to Pietermaritzburg.

PHOTO: OMEGA MOAGINigerian Union in South Africa CEO Ekwealor Thomas (left) and fellow member Samuel Umon, gave the Pacsa roundtable meeting on xenophobia a thumbs up for being proactive in preventing attacks before they spread to Pietermaritzburg.

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XENOPHOBIA perpetuates more violence in the tension among foreign nationals and South Africans.

This is according to research conducted by the University of KwaZulu-Natal, the Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Action (Pacsa) as well as the Sinomlando Centre for Oral History and Memory Work.

The two organisations joined forces with UKZN to deliberate on the causes of xenophobia and to find solutions. The findings come in the awake of attacks on illegal foreign nationals in Pretoria.

During the roundtable discussion held at the city hall last week, the research participants were given a chance to share their experiences.

The research, which began a year ago, saw 19 locals and 16 foreign nationals in and around Pietermaritzburg participate in understanding migration.

The research revealed that the word “xenophobia” is used to describe tensions between local people and foreign nationals and its use fuels more violence. The lack of jobs, crime, differences in sexuality, religion and cultural, as well as poverty, were found to be the sources of tensions among locals and foreign nationals.

Sufiayan Ahmad from Malawi, who has lived in South Africa for 18 years, said the problem is deeper than anticipated.

“It all starts with education. The South African government should teach locals about migration and why people migrate.

“If a child can be taught at a young age about his or her roots and love, all this would perhaps stop. When there’s love, there is peace and respect,” he said.

KZN and Gauteng are the two provinces that have been hit hardest by xenophobic attacks. During the open session, questions were raised about the prosecution of the perpetrators of violence in the past.

People were given an open space to discuss and try to understand the reason behind migration.

After long discussions, some locals felt it was not fair to mistreat or judge foreign nationals.

UKZN’s Vaughn John said they were not completely surprised by the findings. “It’s not something deeply unknown. What surprised us is that people really opened up about the problem in an open environment.

“The term ‘xenophobia’ somehow exacerbates the problem and does not deal with it at grass-roots’ level.

“Civil society groups, government leaders, churches and members of the public should gather and find solutions to the problem.

“We as South Africans once stayed in some African countries during difficult times in our country,” he said.

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