Facing up to the xenophobia problem

2015-04-19 07:48

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Over the past week I have listened to colleagues and students trying to make sense of the attacks on African migrants and refugees. Many have expanded on what we should call the attacks (i.e. xenophobia, Afro-phobia, criminality) and proffered various underlying reasons (i.e. evasion of South African policies by companies who prefer to hire migrants, the success of migrants in the face of deteriorating conditions for South Africans, ‘woundedness’ from apartheid, crime etc.). Below I try to add some points to the public discussions.

I have heard South African students (from all ‘racial’ groups and socio-economic status’) expressing feelings of frustration and shame because they have been socialised to look at fellow Africans with suspicion and disdain. Fixing the many problems we have in this country may go a long way into relieving the situation, but the country has to really deal with the ‘anti-African migrant sentiment’ that has taken root. It cannot be ignored any longer. This means each of us must be conscious of the language we use in everyday life to talk about those we consider outsiders.

While addressing the ‘anti-African migrant sentiment’ we must be cognisant of the fact that the fear and the hatred is not only out there in the rural areas and townships. Whether we think about higher education institutions (which are supposedly more cosmopolitan), be it Home Affairs officials, international students and African students specifically are treated with the highest levels prejudice. Over the years I have heard horrific stories from Zimbabwean and Nigerian students who have felt powerless to confront discrimination in everyday relations with South Africans.

We have to create safe spaces for young people to confront the fear and hatred of the ‘other’ that they have internalised. (These can include class discussions, church meetings, family dinners etc.) I played Savuka’s Scatterlings of Africa (led by Jonny Clegg) for my second year students before we had a reflection on the attacks and their impact on households and families. Some were puzzled by my choice of song. I told them it is not enough for South Africans to only refer to political solidarity from the broader continent during apartheid. We need to learn about our common ancestry in this continent. We are one people.

Vangile Bingma is with the Sociology Department at the University of Pretoria.

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.