VIOLENCE IN SOUTH AFRICA
By Franck Felix Gutenberg, US Africa News. Updated 2015-04-23
The violence began January 2015 in Soweto, a city located at the edge of Johannesburg, after the death of a South African youth killed by a Somali as the youth was trying to break into the store. The incident triggered a period of looting, followed by violence, leading to at least six deaths. A few days before Easter, King Goodwill Zwelithini (king of the KwaZulu Tribal Authority) denounced the presence of undocumented foreigners who he said were causing insecurity in Durban. "The king never said to beat up people," defends his brother, Prince Thulani Zulu. "It’s the media’s fault."
“Even if the king had not said anything, the anti-foreign sentiment was already high, it was boiling over on the theme of ‘foreigners must to go… there are too many foreigners...they’re taking our jobs because they’re willing to work for less money than us... they’re arrogant…they’re not necessarily refugees and there is no war in the countries where they come from…they buy goods on credit from their fellow Somalis or their co-religionists who give them discounts that local traders are not getting and they ruin informal trade,’ ” noted Mary de Haas, an analyst of political violence in KwaZulu–Natal. In fact, near Durban, there are over a thousand Ethiopian merchants, mainly in the grocery business, who have well-run businesses and pool their purchasing of goods such as sugar, washing powder, and corn meal to sell at retail. And the Congolese are mostly without papers working off the books as street hairdressers or security guards.
It was noted that the number of African immigrants in the country is probably a bit more than two million officially, without even counting the undocumented. "In South Africa, the xenophobic attacks in the last three weeks have killed six people and displaced more than 5,000 foreigners," said Adrian Edwards, a spokesman for the UN agency. "Those who are affected by these xenophobic attacks are refugees and asylum seekers who have had to flee their own countries because of war and persecution. They are in South Africa because they need to be protected,” he said.
The problem goes deeper; there is poverty and unemployment. The government has not been proactive enough," said Paul Ngoma, general secretary of the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NAFCOC) in KwaZulu-Natal. “We took care of political freedoms, but economically we are still very far short. There is a big gap between rich and poor, and the rich are not among our black citizens, who are fighting for scarce resources in the townships, or wherever people think that foreigners have taken these scarce resources," he adds.
The party of the late Nelson Mandela, which has been in power since 1994, did not support the emergence of black citizens, leaving millions of people in poverty, unemployed, and in slums. The regime has also been accused of passivity against xenophobia since 2008, and has used ambiguous language. On Thursday, while "strongly" condemning the attacks, President Jacob Zuma said he "sympathized with some of the issues raised by our fellow South Africans.”