Xenophobic attacks - pattern changing

2012-07-24 22:35

Johannesburg - Attacks against foreigners this year are part of a changing pattern connecting legitimate protests to xenophobic violence, an expert said on Tuesday.

Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in SA spokesperson Gwada Majange said some of the six reported incidents this year were examples of a new type of xenophobic attack.

They originated from protests about service delivery or unemployment.

"You've seen informal traders protest [against the] municipality, but in the end they directed their anger toward the spaza shop owners," Majange said.

The six reported attacks this year had resulted in the injury of at least eight victims, with 42 shops and businesses burnt or looted, 273 people arrested and more than 600 displaced.

The first one was in February, when eight foreigners were assaulted in Doornkuil, near Johannesburg.

The men, from Zimbabwe and Malawi, were sleeping in their shack when five youths armed with knobkerries and clubs attacked and robbed them.

Police could not say for certain whether the motive for the attack was xenophobia or robbery

However, they noted that resentment could have been a factor, as all eight men worked for a local construction company in the area.

This was followed by four nights of looting around Thabong, in the Free State. More than 20 businesses, mostly owned by Bangladeshis, were looted and 42 people were arrested.

These attacks began as unemployment protests, after some local youths were unable to get jobs at Welkom's mines.

The protests soon spread to surrounding localities, including Mshenguville and Themba.

Local police did not ascribe a motive to the looting, but did not rule out xenophobia.

The Thabong attacks were followed by similar incidents over three days in Kutloanong which resulted in damage to 16 businesses and seven arrests. Police had to escort foreigners out of the area.

Free State Premier Ace Magashule decried the attacks as a violation of the Constitution.

"These attacks violate the fundamental principles of our Constitution, which rejects discrimination and intolerance on the basis of race, creed or geographic origin," Magashule said.

Later that month, a strike by miners at the Impala mine near Phokeng, in North West, culminated in an attack that resulted in 32 shops being looted and almost 100 foreigners displaced in nearby Freedomville.

Almost 130 people were arrested.

North West police spokesperson Brigadier Thulani Ngubani, while noting that most of the victims were foreigners, denied that the attacks were xenophobic.

He said they were targeted against the businesses, not the foreigners who owned them.

Reports of xenophobic attacks went quiet for the next few months until May when residents of Phagameng township near Modimolle, in Limpopo, attacked and looted shops owned by Pakistanis and Ethiopians.

About 30 foreign families were displaced and over a hundred people were arrested.

This was sparked by the arrest of a Pakistani man for the alleged killing of his South African girlfriend.

Shops petrol-bombed

The Free State was again the location of xenophobic attacks a month later when businesses and homes owned by Somalians, Chinese and Ethiopians were looted and burned in Botshabelo.

Over 500 people were displaced in these attacks and more than 100 had been arrested by the time the violence died down.

However, just as one location quietened, another flared up with the petrol-bombing of shops owned by foreigners in Beacon Valley, in the Western Cape.

Police said four tuckshops owned by two Bangladeshis, a Somali and a Pakistani were set alight within minutes of each other. One person was injured.

Majange said the incidents in Free State, where xenophobic attacks followed protests against unemployment and the strike by miners, were an example of the new type of xenophobic attack.

"It seems these non-nationals are being used as scapegoats for bigger issues that people are trying to challenge," she said.

However, she added that at least one of the xenophobic attacks this year was linked to simple extortion and organised crime.

Majange said the spaza shop owners in Beacon Valley appeared to have been attacked as the result of a protection racket run by local gangs.

"The case was around a protection fee that gangs requested from shop owners," she said.

While the motivation may have been different, the choice of victim was no accident.

"I'm sure there are some South African spaza shop owners who didn't have the money to pay the gangsters, but for some reason people feel it is easier to vent their anger on non-nationals," Majange said.

She said this came from a perception that it was easier to get away with a crime against a foreigner.

  • des.cider - 2012-07-25 00:02

    For years now, the word xenophobia has been misused and misunderstood. Attacks on other race groups are rarely made from positions of fear. We all tend to avoid and to flee those situations with other groups in which we feel insecure and vulnerable. The attacks between various groups - some racially defined - are currently being made in a number of forms and are the result of deep-seated economic causes reflected as perceived differences along racial lines (by which I mean differences in intelligence, ability and the potential to generate income). At the basic level, township dwellers attack storekeepers of difference race because of the differences in income and because of their vulnerability to price change and commodity availability over time. It is a simple form of strife that we all endure, for example between my family and the local Spar, etc. Solution - not mine, I no longer have the will to try to make my point.

  • jonathan.erasmus.75 - 2012-07-25 00:25

    "These attacks began as unemployment protests, after some local youths were unable to get jobs at Welkom's mines." - would anyone like to employ these youths? The wounds of the past are still evident but we are turning against the very people from countries who helped South Africa towards democracy. Dlamini-Zuma has an uphill battle as chairperson of the AU. Not only must she bridge the franco-Anglo divide but she must give these countries solace that their nationals won't continue to be targets of racial abuse. They say the colonised become their previous masters; we saw it with the Scots and slavery, we see it in the US with its tightning immigration laws, the parallels drawn between Mugabe and Ian Smith. The question is can we beat the curve?

  • stanton.clarke - 2012-07-25 01:00

    Why are there so many asylum seekers in SA? Is Pakistan, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Malawi, Zimbabwe and others at war and as a result their citizens have fled to SA because their lives are in danger????? To me it seems the bulk are economic refugees!

      kevin.farayi - 2012-07-25 02:38

      you name looks foreign stanton. where you from??

  • david.mlambo.77 - 2012-07-25 02:57

    Does the South African goverment stress to its citizens how its freedom fighters were housed in the very nations that haven become victims of Xenophobia. Some of these nations are now going through turmoils and seek refuge in the very same way South Africans did.\r\nI dont beleive South African refugees were treated in such a manner, \i stand to be corrected\

      joubert.joep - 2012-07-25 05:00

      And because you do not get a job you burn somebody elses business? Think - we all have to work together to get strong. If you do not like the fact that somebody else is making money - start your own business and allow other people to do their thing. I thought that was what our country stand for and why we made friends with other nations?

      william.letsong.5 - 2012-07-25 09:16

      Yes David our freedom fighters were housed in those very nations, not a whole damn or half of S Afica were there taking peoples jobs.

  • Vince.York - 2012-07-25 06:23

    xenophobia is practised in so many ways! Music being an international open invite over airways and even the continent via SAMA Awards, bringing all musicians and sounds together, is sadly undermined in SA:- recent music competitions along the 'Southern Cape Routes' exhibit instances where municipalities, xhosa's and connected, have prevented DJ's from other African countries from participating in the competitions are a clear form of xenophobic ostracism. Must SA do away with the SAMA Awards next? Pick n Pay - have another oyster!

  • millionwatts1 - 2012-07-25 07:30

    There is a difference between unemployed and unemployable.

  • lunga.swelindawo.9 - 2012-07-25 07:37

    South Africa for Africans,we belong in one continent and we share one original background,please treat them like your brother and your sister,UNITED SOUTH AFRICA IS UNITED AFRICA.

  • martin.britchford.5 - 2012-07-25 07:52

    african racists nxa,

      martin.britchford.5 - 2012-07-25 08:13

      how the hell does a spaza shop steal jobs, i believe they are jealous cos these people cant open a spaza shop without eating all their own stock.

  • longile.bongani - 2012-07-25 08:05

    attacks on foreigners are for one reason only. Jealousy....(now please allow me to generalise as it needs to be done here) It is clear for all to see, the average South African black person is less willing to go out and find a job, value it and work hard to keep it, than it appears any other African from northern countries. Nor are they motivated to start their own business, by selling goods where they can. As far as the South African black is concerned, all they need in life is owed to them. If they see others getting it around them, they simply resort to violence. If they could put as much energy into trying to create something for themselves, how different this country would be!

  • gloria.mathebula.9 - 2012-07-25 08:13

    I don't have a problem with foreigners but damn I hate Nigerians, they sell drugs to our young and they continue to run illegal businesses in backyards. Our government knows they are the biggest culprits in perpetuating but crime in our country and they do nothing to stop them. We can continue to live like this.

      anton.burger.16 - 2012-07-25 09:17

      Thank you...

      longile.bongani - 2012-07-25 11:06

      I ageee entirely Gloria

  • longile.bongani - 2012-07-25 08:13

    we are gonna need tougher economic empowerment regulation again soon, but this time it will have to be against the chinese, indians, coloureds, muslims, pakistanis, bangladeshi's, jews,and all the other willing participants in out economy, who are taking advantage of our poor south african blacks who are still sitting under their tree waiting for the golden apple to fall into their laps

      william.letsong.5 - 2012-07-25 09:21

      Does your mother know what an idiot you are?

  • anton.burger.16 - 2012-07-25 09:25

    Hello...if it's so bad here, why don't they just leave. I am sure they are not forced to stay. NO THEY WON''s still heaven compared to the $hitholes they come from. So come do your crime in sunny South Africa, where the government lets you do just as you like.

  • gail.hayesbean - 2012-07-25 09:32

    This report is speculative and the issues of violence against foreigners highly complex. For starters RDP houses are frequently sold by locals to foreigners like these because they need the money to live on due to unemployment. The foreigners frequently have fraudulently obtained credentials which is the result of crooks n Home Affairs. Because of FICA rules many of these Pakistanis and assorted Africans from up North hold large amounts of cash instead of banking them - hence they need protection. It is a vicious circle which encourages crimes of violence and extortion as well as service delivery protests and of course revenge from foreigners on targets among the locals who are easiest to prey on. The bottom line is that these foreigners can undercut local spaza owners and informal traders and the monies they make go North to sustain their families. Locals benefit from lower prices and availability on one side but lose out in terms of entrepreneurship and local employment. Govt. has to address this issue by dealing with informal traders from other countries coming in to SA. That means putting in place officials of integrity and deploying the military to prevent people filtering across our borders who are not bringing much needed skills. Teachers and nurses and skills of that nature are welcome, but send home the informal traders as we have plenty of Africans born locally who are capable of filling these roles. RDP houses should only be sold to South African citizens.

  • daniel.genseric - 2012-07-27 18:37

    ASIA FOR THE ASIANS, AFRICA FOR THE AFRICANS, WHITE COUNTRIES FOR EVERYBODY! Everybody says there is this RACE problem. Everybody says this RACE problem will be solved when the third world pours into EVERY white country and ONLY into white countries. The Netherlands and Belgium are just as crowded as Japan or Taiwan, but nobody says Japan or Taiwan will solve this RACE problem by bringing in millions of third worlders and quote assimilating unquote with them. Everybody says the final solution to this RACE problem is for EVERY white country and ONLY white countries to “assimilate,” i.e., intermarry, with all those non-whites. What if I said there was this RACE problem and this RACE problem would be solved only if hundreds of millions of non-blacks were brought into EVERY black country and ONLY into black countries? How long would it take anyone to realize I’m not talking about a RACE problem. I am talking about the final solution to the BLACK problem? And how long would it take any sane black man to notice this and what kind of psycho black man wouldn’t object to this? But if I tell that obvious truth about the ongoing program of genocide against my race, the white race, Liberals and respectable conservatives agree that I am a naziwhowantstokillsixmillionjews. They say they are anti-racist. What they are is anti-white. Anti-racist is a code word for anti-white.

      syed.t.gillani - 2012-08-16 02:00

      i red all this , i wants to say some thing kills any one is no way to make good your country name in others eyes ..i was in Thailand , Malaysia Singapore these all countries respect all peoples and visitors and they are establishing tourism .. this country has more beautiful places then others too. but they are just making scared all others, if some one trying to establishing business here , even they cant see this. why ??? this way only hate will come out..and our black brothers not trying to work but they want money and to be reach without doing any this a way for life??? Do good and get good..!!!

  • Catryn Bosman - 2013-03-01 08:35

    Governments allow the illegals of all countries to stir up our crime pot. Why are they here? Not to invest for sure. If I go to America or Europe without the necessar documents I will be deported immediately.

  • Besteric Sethobja - 2013-05-27 15:56

    Whereas it is human to provide food and shelter to needy, we also have to understand that the safety of the country and its inhabitants comes first. I am of the view that the government should legislate stricter immigration laws that will track the whereabouts of ALL immigrants in SA. The fact that the private jet landed in Waterkloof army airport bears testimony. What if the plane had a different mission? If they are unable to come up with such laws, let them copy from the US and the UK.

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