It's easy to become xenophobic

2010-07-19 08:04

A few years ago I was trying to get a builder to come in and fix something at home but they were all too busy to even talk to me. When I did eventually manage to get hold of one his prices were astronomical.

What happened was that a lot of Brits and Germans had made use of a weak rand at the time and had bought properties on the Cape Peninsula as though there was no tomorrow. And then they'd hogged all the builders, electricians and plumbers and thought nothing of paying inflated prices because to them even the biggest rip-off was cheap at the price.

I must admit to first having distinctly bad thoughts about the Brits and Germans and then worrying about what would happen to all sorts of prices in this country if foreigners happily just kept paying over the odds.

On the basis that xenophobia is a "fear of foreigners" then I suppose I was xenophobic.

Over the past week I have been thinking that if it was so easy for me to become xenophobic then how hard can it be for someone to become seriously xenophobic when a foreigner moves into what you thought was your RDP house and taking what you thought should be your job?

The problem is that xenophobia is only xenophobia when it’s in the mind. The minute it moves out of the mind and becomes deed is when it becomes anything from racist to outright criminal.


And if it’s so easy for people to become xenophobic in this country it stands to reason that it’s equally easy for this situation to become racist, violent and criminal.

So what's the solution?

Frankly, I don't believe the solution lies in the government telling us to be nice to our foreign neighbours. Because it’s damn hard to be nice to anyone when you are starving and homeless.

I don't think the solution lies in the government just putting this all down to criminal elements and getting the police to kick arse.

I reckon that we have to look at what is causing the problem in the first place.

And while I certainly applaud the government for wanting to help our neighbours in their need and not turn starving refugees away, it’s actually very difficult to be charitable to foreigners at the expense of not being charitable to your own people.

We are told that most of these "foreigners" are Zimbabweans.

That being the case, I think the situation would be enormously relieved if, for starters, our government stopped treating Robert Mugabe as some sort of god and told him to get off his high horse and to sort himself and his country out so that Zimbabwe could start creating job opportunities for their own people.

Complex aspects

I find it quite bizarre that South Africa is facing all sorts of problems as a result of xenophobia which in turn is caused by millions of Zimbabweans being forced to try and find work here, while Lord Bob doesn't appear to be in the least bit concerned about helping us.

It’s a bit like putting your life on the line rescuing your neighbour's wife and children from their burning house while he sits on your patio having a whisky and soda and complaining about how badly the world is treating him.

I know that there are many other aspects of this problem. Like topical South African entitlement. Where some greedy township shop owners believe that they have a right to a monopoly and being able to charge high prices. And that any Somali who starts up in competition and undercuts them should be kicked out or killed.

There are all sorts of complex aspects to the problem we so loosely call xenophobia.

But, I am convinced that a major cause is quite simply that there are too many people in South Africa chasing too few houses and too few jobs.

I am fully supportive of the South African government’s desire to help our neighbours. But I reckon that our neighbours’ governments should put a bit of effort into helping as well.

Once again, our government is in denial with regard to this whole problem of xenophobia.

Do something

And as usual, they will wake up far too late after heaven knows how many people have died.

Our government needs to realise that for poor South Africans who are battling to find jobs and housing, all those foreigners don't look like brothers and sisters, but more like an invading army.

The government needs to start looking at what is causing this flood of illegal immigrants and do something about it - even if it means upsetting big brother Bob.

Send your comments to Chris

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

  • nix - 2010-07-19 08:24

    I agree with you. Why does our government treat Bob like a fragile egg??? Not just our government, the whole world just watches and shakes their heads??? Why is he allowed to do what he does. I can't wrap my head around that.

  • TL - 2010-07-19 08:41

    I could not have said it better, Chris you are the first one to get it. Yesterday I was in Atteridgeville, they were having a community meeting regarding xenophobia. As per usual, the government leaders mentioned that this is "our brothers and sisters" adn we should be "nice", I just dont understand how our government expect an empty stomach to be nice. I do not expect anyone who must hunt for food, to take 67 minutes of their sunday and volunteer. Its a well known fact that everyone thinks that their own life is better than the next person. When you are in dire situation you do not become nice. Was Mandela "nice" when he was ordering the booming of public places? I do not think so, but it had to be done?

  • elize - 2010-07-19 09:04

    Robert Mugabe should be forced by our government to pay a monthly fee for every zimbabwean that stays in SA, how else are we suppose to "feed" all of them

  • Trish - 2010-07-19 09:06

    I think that it is because the ANC have an obligation to support Bob because he assisted them during the apartheid years but surely the debt has been paid many times over? The government should wake up and realise that their voters have some very serious issues that need to be addressed. Also people need to be educated in life strategies. For a country to grow economically you cannot have people sitting on their rear ends expecting all sorts of hand-outs. If you do not have a job there is plenty of charity work to do which may in time lead to employment.(Mandela Day proved this)

  • Gert - 2010-07-19 09:07

    It would help if government ensured that only citizens qualifies for government subsidies, not permanent residents. (If a foreign-born citizen goes through the naturalization process which requires at least 5 years permanent residence, they should qualify as well) Non-citizen can easily be identified by their ID numbers...

    In addition, non-citizens (and foreign companies) should be ranked below all South Africans for BEE-purposes...

  • get real - 2010-07-19 09:17

    Well Chris, if anyone believes that if foreigners leave then there will be more houses and more jobs for South Africans, then they are fooling them selves. People should ask why are foreigners coming to SA? The reason is because there are opportunities what I mean by that is people are not hard working enough to go out and earn a living, so the foreigners are taking advantage of that. I believe the government should focus on changing the people's attitude towards work and that will solve all the problems. Otherwise what ever is happening now is just attacks on soft targets and once they are done with that they will carrying on stealing from their own people.

  • patrick - 2010-07-19 09:17

    Personally i think we are a country full of hypocrites. We talk to our so called "great" spirit of Ubuntu, then we go and murder fellow humans. To me that is the lowest another humna being can sink, and that person should not even say anything about Ubuntu because that is just being plain simple barbaric.
    We talk of Madiba being a hero and how we should honour him by devoting 67 minutes of our time to good every year but the remaining 525,537 minutes in the year we treat other people of different races like they are trash. I am black and i feel that the spirit of Arpatheid still lives amongst us, even though the laws are different. The only difference between now and then is now you will not be prosecuted for such things but I believe its time the government starts taking a strong stance against discrimination of any kind in our society, be it race, religious, ethnicity, whatever. Discrimination of any kind is discrimination. Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Zambia, Botswana, etc kept our leaders who managed to escape into exile during the Arpatheid years and this is how we say "thank you?". Shame on you South Africa.
    On one hand you talk of 67minutes for Madiba but have you ever thought that maybe Madiba would appreciate it more if rather than 67 minutes of artificial "doing good", you actually value one another's life for the whole year, and be grateful for the help you recieved from neighbouring countries during Arpatheid, and actually show that you are grateful.

    We seriously need to rethink about who we are as a society and not keep on shaming Madiba's name by talking about him when all we practise is blasphemy.

  • MissC - 2010-07-19 09:21

    The reason is simple, Zim has no oil or any other natural source that the west (UN) wants... So why should they want to intervene. But this sence of entitlement is alos not on, look at what happend during the world cup where temporary employement folsk went on strike etc.. No work No Pay period!!

  • selina - 2010-07-19 09:25

    Lets shut our borders or oder anyone without proper documents out.Low skilled immigrants must not be allowed in our country as we have lots of low skilled workers.

  • doug - 2010-07-19 09:26

    Agreed. The problem is simple mathematics. South Africa has fewer than 6 million registered personal taxpayers, of which about 4.5 million pay tax. This accounts for well over a third of SARS' income. Company tax and VAT - a lot of which is paid by the same people paying personal tax - accounts for most of the rest. So how the heck can a minority keep supporting a majority - especially when immigrants pour in and the majority make babies like there's no tomorrow? Add in the ANC's love of siphoning off billions into their own pockets and the result is a recipe for disaster. We need leaders who can LEAD here.

  • Peter - 2010-07-19 09:28

    Nail on the head... I mean its not like we a flurishing first world country which has minimal economic and unemploment problems. We struggle to support our own citizens and now we supporting most of the rest of Southern Africa, I think although wrong its easy to understand why those who are being effected by it most have reacted the way they have...

  • Dt - 2010-07-19 09:31

    Its easy for you to say becouse you havent been in THESE people' shoes. But when Your wife and kids are dying of hunger becouse Your leaders messed up or you were born in a country without resources and their is no way in hell you can provide for your family, lets see if you won't jump the border to go work as a gardener, waiter , in constraction or farms so that your wife and kidds can have food.

    You can hate us even kill us, but i would rather die trying to feed my family than watch them die while i am doing nothing.

  • @Elize - 2010-07-19 09:37

    in your ignorance, the SA government doesnt "feed" any of the Zimbos, they actually work for their living whilst South Africans sit and get payouts then still complain that Zimbos are taking their jobs which they wont take anyway if the Zimbabweans leave.

  • Jay - 2010-07-19 09:40

    We employ a Zimbabwean gardener who is amazing - hardworking, pleasant, reliable. Towards the end of the World Cup he had to pull his child out of pre-school because of threats of violence against his family. Has had to move to a safer area too. He is afraid to go back to Zim because he is NOT a Mugabe supporter. All he wants to do is work and support his family. This is a really hard one.

  • Marc - 2010-07-19 09:53

    Well I am in Oz, I am now the "Nigerian" so to speak

  • brak - 2010-07-19 09:54

    To war with Bob and his cronies i say!

  • brak - 2010-07-19 10:00

    catch-22 situation aswell...The Zimbos who do work hard and earn an honest living have no where to go cause tyrant Bob is on a misiion of whos knows what proportions..there my friends lay the rotten egg! rid of him and his ways and then you will see southern Africa prosper.

  • gen - 2010-07-19 10:01

    @DT - of your wife and kids are dying of hunger you shouldnt have made kids in the first place. unfortunately our uneducated citizens are too uneducated.

  • GinaS - 2010-07-19 10:07

    Only help those who are helping themselves. Give them work permits and reister them for taxation, the rest send them home and close the borders sercurely,let BOB deal with them, as for Maputo residents close off their border crossing aswell. The is country has enough people to house and feed we really do not need the whole of Africa here.

  • vicky john - 2010-07-19 10:19

    The primary problem is too many people - full stop. Not only here but worldwide. If you cannot support yourself, why produce multiple babies? Why make it the problem of society and government? An those who indiscriminately father children, do not get opinionated if the women you have impregnated turn up at abortion clinics. Keep it zipped.

  • @gen - 2010-07-19 10:22

    Hey Gen, so if you have kids when things are ok, then they take a turn for worse, what do you do? Do you give up your kids or you put them in storage? You are so ignorant and arrogant or very stupid. Please take time to think over your comment before posting things that you will be ashamed of in hindsight.

  • Andrew - 2010-07-19 10:25

    The argument that foreigners take our jobs may seem appealing, but in the bigger scheme this is simply not true. The same sentiment has was and is being expressed in the UK when many Eastern Europe countries joined the EU and flocked to the UK to work. The influx of people who are willing to work hard and more importantly, take initiative and start small businesses, is in the bigger scheme good for the economy and will ultimately result in better opportunities for all. Personally, I think foreigners should be protected.

  • Rasta - 2010-07-19 10:27

    Very complicated.This is just my attempt at a constructive comment.The tax figures speak sth.It makes sense to expand the tax base for the government.But, still I think foreigners has a way of injecting into the economy through for example patronising a wholesaler as they are all retailers themselves and very far from the big players in the economy.

    I feel there is sth more than meets the eye on the RDP housing issue.It is like I am more South African than you.This is where the country is going to go if it persists itself in this route...That is the way to catch up with the rest of Africa.

    Why are Zimbabweans surviving here? Against lots of odds? Why? I do not know.But it reflects badly on the priveleged South Africans.

  • @Rasta - 2010-07-19 10:38


  • King Leopard II - 2010-07-19 10:55

    Today it's the African visitors taking our jobs etc tomorrow its the White person who benefited from apartheid etc. Tomorrow the African brothers will return to their homes but SA will still have a culture of violence when it wants to protest. If you can say the reason the foreigners are attacked is because they are fighting for scarce resources why not use the same argument for crime and say because they are hungry and don't have jobs poor South Africans break into other South African's homes and murder see makes no to justify a crime against anyone South African, Australian, Zimbabwean, Nigerian etc. The world watched with sheer happiness at the World Cup how stupid will it be for them to watch people burning each other? This article merely saying its Easy to become a Criminal! This is a pathetic piece and deserves no place in the great nation South Africa hopes to become

  • Maxi - 2010-07-19 11:07

    Nigerians busy selling drugs, kidnapping people and commiting fraud. They must go back where they come from. They are using fraudulent id books, and always change their names. difficult to arrest them.

  • jk - 2010-07-19 11:07

    why do we associate the world xenophobia to black people? most of the foriengers bring unhealthy competition to our local market.we cannot tell where they get thier products from if one consider thier selling prices. some of their products are stale. have you ever seen rotton eggs on a market shaves before? believe it.the Government must step in with price regulation, and inspections must be done regulary for the save of our health. the wage rule for the farmers be adhere to.Any foreigner found occupied RDP must be put in jail except if it is aquired legally. dont be surprised i am a foreigner and a business man as well

  • Pat Stevens - 2010-07-19 11:09

    Ask News24 to email you a copy of British Tribes of Africa, there are some insights in there that may enlighten you, or you can stay ignorant for the rest of your life.

  • todii - 2010-07-19 11:13

    wish it was that easy to remove Bob out…now imagine what I have to tell my son (5) about the xenophobes?my son's mom is a sa (xhosa) woman and i am a zim (shona) man

  • vidzo - 2010-07-19 11:28

    Zimbos deserve more respect. they are the biggest contributors to the SA economy than the rest of Africa. Most of them are doing something positive are working hard to feed themselves, they are not being fed by the SA government.I have lived in SA before and i know how it's like to work hard and still be hated. i moved on with my life, i'm back here home it's better off to live under the Robert Mugabe bullshit than the Madiba bullshit - a fake world of reality!

  • @patrick - 2010-07-19 11:31

    Patrick- you make some very powerful points.People like you should make every effort to get into government and change things. You have a sense of vision.Well said !!!

  • Kwaai - 2010-07-19 11:40

    The WEST this and the WEST that...shut up and sort out or own problems. Africa for Africans I believe is the saying!!!!

  • malcomx@Patrick - 2010-07-19 11:44

    Moronic views! stop atempting to sound intelligent you are not.Madiba you are talking about has grandchildren who dont go to bed hungry( they are milionares). The principle of ubuntu you just mentioned, doenst apply when your country is invaded by people who's intention are to suck dry it. South africans who went to exile during apartheid days did so legally and they stayed in camps and never went there in droves you moron! are you suggesting we hand over our country to foreigners as a thank you token? If you dissrespect our countries laws by comig here illegaly i.e jumping fences and fakes papers, you deserve to be treated like trash.@DT. let me see you try, you will rethink your comment when you are made to wear a burning tire arround your neck, Im not responsible for your families miserable life and so is my country, you are not our responsibility, plain and simple.As for those emlpoying foreigners, you days are coming, pls never blame the government when they cant trace them.

  • Puzzled - 2010-07-19 11:49

    How on earth can we provide jobs, schools and healthcare for the millions of extra persons in SA when we can't even look after our own? Our schools are full to overflowing. Where are we going to put all of the offspring of those flocking south? Not to mention housing. Government must start waking up and realising that its first loyalty is to its own citizens. You can't be all things to everybody.

  • BoB - 2010-07-19 12:08

    Never has a former liberation movement in Southern Africa lost power, never. All the parties are scarred of a domino effect once the first one loses it's grip. This is probably the most important reason why all SADC countries support each other's governments without regard for the well being of the population.

  • duck - 2010-07-19 12:13

    Deport all those good for nothing Nigerian drug sellers !!!!!

  • DPH - 2010-07-19 12:15

    Chris, during the World Cup, I refused to jump on the 'United Africa' bandwagon and support Ghana as it was simply an extension of this ridiculous 'African Brotherhood' mentality that has created the problems you have described. This is the bigger picture that the World Cup euphoria concealed. Now that all the excitement is over, the realities of life in South Africa have very quickly re-emerged. Decisive action is required! Maybe too much to hope for from an impotent government such as ours?

  • @malcomx - 2010-07-19 12:16

    How ironic you call yourself malcomx, when you hold such views.
    For your infor i am Zimbabwean and i know Thabo Mbeki for one stayed in Harare, at number 53 Eves Crescent in Ashdown Park and that is a far cry from being a camp, and he actually had the freedom to roam around in his beige Peugeot 504 station wagon.
    Better you research before making your comments.

  • Mark - 2010-07-19 12:20

    SA is the last frontier of Africa - let's see how long it will stand for....

  • Pierre edge - 2010-07-19 12:28

    AMAZING, on the news24 poll "How do we solve the xenophobia problem?", the majority sees the solution as "Stricter border controls"
    So to avoid having people kill foreigners just because they are foreigners, let's close the door on them, and to eliminate education headaches, i am sure the news24 readers will come with the brilliant solution of eliminating complex math books no doubt LOL


  • Dt - 2010-07-19 12:31

    @gen i pray to God that you never face what some of these foreigners have or gone through. And believe some of them are very well educated holding degrees but are reduced to labours becouse of the economic hardships or wars in their countries.
    So Gen before you make a smart arse commet, think not everyone has it all figured out like you. But for your information i am educated and i had a job before i married and had kids

    And i think its only a spoiled person who will say foreigner are stealing job becouse the job wasnt his in the first place, it belonged to the person who is qualified for it

  • Thuli - 2010-07-19 12:44

    @malcomx 100%,These foreigners have forgotten ukuthi kukha isicathulo sethu la (This is our country)
    And I only have one word for them....OUT

  • Dt - 2010-07-19 12:52

    @malcom i will wear it gladly n die knowing im dying for something important in my life. And after killing all the foreiger whats next malcom? While u have more jobs? Or no crime? Or who will you blame and kill next?
    The world is for people who work hard and go out their to look for oppotunities and barbarian like you just distroys it maybe you will be the next Mugabe

  • Lani - 2010-07-19 12:54

    my problem not with people coming to South Africa and trying to make a living here, because some of us South Africans do go to other countries for better living. My problem comes when people from other countries increases our crime level, issues like human traficing, drug, and ect...we already got our own problems we don't need more, thats what causing my frustration. If you want to do crime go and pollute your own country

  • ajaxfiko - 2010-07-19 12:56

    I fully agree!
    Spoken like a true researcher.
    You spoke from the Heart of a Township citizen, living in a Shack, watching foreigners take the minor jobs (originally for the uneducated bunch of SA) and RDP houses.
    We can accommodate a select few, the legal immigrants, not the Illegal ones. . .they run away from Home Affairs and SAPS in the surbubs and flood our neighbourhoods. . .that ain't right.

    As a South African living in the townships with our "brothers" buying stolen items for cheap and re-selling them to the community and taking my "uneducated/unemployed/discouraged to seek for work" friend/sister/brother/mother's job, I have a right to be Xenophobic. . .which is more than I can say for someone sitting in a bullet Proofed BMW parked in a Mansion trying to solve the problem and NOT the cause.
    Enough is Enough people!

  • simplesimon - 2010-07-19 12:58

    Firstly Xenophobia can never be an excuse for attacking other people, that just makes you an animal. Why I say this is because pretty soon in RSA people will suddenly realise that they are attacking the lowest paid peoples who take jobs that they themselves do not even want. They will realise that they are attacking business owners whose businesses they do not even want. They will start thinking as in the French revolution or pre war Germany or Russia, that by attacking the poor you achieve little. They will soon have leaders rise like Madiba and even more radical guys from the PAC etc who will start telling people that whilst the war against apartheid has been won, the war against poverty and class distinction and even selective racism continues, and then will start another revolution in this country which can be more ugly and more violent and more deadly than ever experienced here. So I just believe that white people especially but other racial groups as well would be wise to be prepared to give up a lot more of what they have and ensure that the distribution of wealth of this rich and beautiful country is spread and shared with all. It can never be the preserve of the few. So before we all go off after uncle Bob just be careful uncle Bob does not hook up with cousin Juju and start people thinking along more malevolent lines than xenophobia, and I really hope it never needs come to that without joking.

  • gen - 2010-07-19 13:03

    @ @gen - whatever. im talking about the people in the townships who still go and have unprotected sex although they can barely feed themselves. That really happens so how does it make ME stupid or arrogant? O_o
    your opinion means nothing to me though so dont even bother answering.

  • Shocked - 2010-07-19 13:05

    To News24 EDITORS:

    I would like to report some racist xenophobic comments in this thread and some hate speech:


    7/19/2010 11:44:24 AM
    .....If you dissrespect our countries laws by comig here illegaly i.e jumping fences and fakes papers, you deserve to be treated like trash. (SICK)
    @DT. ....when you are made to wear a burning tire arround your neck, Im not responsible for your families miserable life and so is my country,....As for those emlpoying foreigners, you days are coming, pls never blame the government when they cant trace them.

    We have threats, and barabric burning tires references that only savages and deranged minds would speak of with such fondness

  • MBA - 2010-07-19 13:18

    Chris, you're a smart guy? You should know that Bob has written off all the "MDC defectors" to South Africa, thats what he publically considers the millions of Zimbo's who have climbed over the fence at Beit bridge who now live in SA and mostly JHB. If you know the inner workings of the ANC, ZANU PF and the diamond mines of the DRC then you will know that human capital is expendible to Bob and co, the less mouths to feed, the more profitable the proceeds from Diamonds. He is also on the brink of getting financial and humanitarian aid of astronomical proportion (From the east, not the west)in Zim because he has supported a powerless political marraige between Morgan and himself...its a great business plan if you are a shareholder...which the ANC may or may not be...but if they were...arent those good reasons not to act against Bob? He is the chairman of the board after all. As for your comments about driving prices high by the poms and the jerry's, the antithesis is happening with normal day to day labor jobs, the cost of labor is cheap by SA standards and thats what the locals are peed about. They are here to stay and the price of labor is cheap...too much supply for the demand, this is good if you are a business owner. So, in summary, Vote in the ANC and you will open the door to much more of the same, work for the ANC and become a shareholder because the gravy runneth over @ Luthuli house. Vote for the DA and you are a bloody agent! I wonder what the ANC's EE policy is... thats an interesting one.

  • Athena @Rasta - 2010-07-19 13:39

    What on EARTH are you trying to state in your (ahem) comment?