FRIDAY BRIEFING | Scapegoats: Is SA prepared for next wave of xenophobia?

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Foreign nationals under attack: When will it end? 

The term "xenophobia" appears to have been deemed a dirty word by government. Banished from its lexicon.

Instead, anything resembling violence against foreign nationals is now labelled crime.

Maybe its because government doesn't want to once again send envoys around the continent to apologise for what is going on back home. But the signs are there. As Covid-19 makes a big dent in an already struggling economy, foreign nationals are once again being put in harm's way.

It should come as no surprise that a political party, South African First, is behind the #PutSouthAfricanFirst hashtag with local government elections just around the corner.

Under this hashtag, marches have been arranged on Nigerian and Zimbabwe embassies with protesters calling on foreign nationals to go back home. Besides accusing foreign nationals of stealing jobs, there have also been accusations that they are behind human trafficking.

As Wits Professor Loren Landau writes for this week's Friday Briefing, one way to ensure you get more votes is to put the blame for the country's woes on people who don't have the right to vote. Dr Steven Gordan from the Human Sciences Research Council writes that concerning data shows that negative stereotypes about foreign nationals are rife in Gauteng, making it little wonder that groups from #PutSouthAfricanfirst are starting to gain traction. This is not helped by the fact that the Gauteng government itself has put out the Township Economic Development Draft Bill, which is likely to stoke these stereotypes further. Former Gauteng premier Mbhazima Shilowa has written about his experiences in provincial government when the first xenophobic attacks happened in 2008, warning that the signs are there that a new wave is likely to happen soon. News24's James de Villers spoke to UWC's Suren Pillay who said, while it was hard to measure whether xenophobia was on the increase, it was concerning how xenophobic viewpoints were becoming more mainstream. Finally, Dewa Mavhinga from Human Rights Watch writes that in all the previous cases of xenophobia since 2008 literally no-one has been brought to justice.

It's a heavy issue before the weekend, but one we should all definitely be concerned about.

Vanessa Banton
Opinions Editor

Laying SA's woes at the feet of foreign nationals

While foreign nationals are scapegoated for a variety of issues that are wrong in the country, xenophobic violence has a lasting impact on all South Africans, often leading to anti-democratic township governance, writes Loren Landau.

Hatred and fear in the 'Place of Gold': Dangerous-anti-foreigner antipathy in Gauteng

The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated anti-foreigner sentiment in South Africa, especially in Gauteng, making the province ripe for another wave of xenophobic attacks, writes Steven Gordon.

Mbhazima Shilowa: New wave of xenophobic attacks on the cards? Govt mustn't be caught napping
All the signs that were visible in 2008 ahead of the first xenophobic attacks in Gauteng are in place now, warns Mbhazima Shilowa.

Why are SA leaders failing to address xenophobia: 5-questions with UWC professor Suren Pillay

News24's James de Villiers spoke to UWC associate professor Suren Pillay about the state of xenophobia in South Africa, and why our leaders have failed to address it. 

Is South Africa prepared for the next wave of xenophobic violence?

Policing and bringing people to justice needs to be improved in South Africa to deter future xenophobic violence, writes Dewa Mavhinga.

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