In Politics, South Africa

The state perpetuated Xenophobic outbreaks and it must be held accountable and responsible.

From the S.A. Soccer World Cup 2010 dreams and political rhetorical speeches on empowerment & opportunities to be brought by the world cup, those promises were to calm the situation around the dissenting voices on the so-called service delivery protests, which were becoming a threat to be dealt with before WC 2010. In that, unlawful forced evictions of communities by the municipalities rose, the clamp down on protestors intensified. 

The State utterances in defence of their actions when challenged by the dissenting voices, with shifting the blame to the high number of migrants in the country, saying that the migrants would grab their opportunities and also make it difficult for them to provide essential service. Such defensive statements sparked the 2006 attacks, but the fire didn’t catch up or affect many areas. 

The 2008 outbreak was state orchestrated projects to pave their smooth way to the 2009 power battle at the Elective Conference in Polokwane, then to the first historic event in Africa, the Fifa World Cup Soccer Tournament. 

The very same government which created the situation continues to fuel the fire by providing unrealistic solutions:

  • Establishment of the displacement temporary camps and sites.
  • Forcefully closing down such camps/ sites without a proper solution to the acknowledged challenges.
  • Using such camps/sites as deportation centres for those vulnerable groups taking the state’s offer of being deported or given a compensation (rental fee), to go find yourself an alternative accommodation. That unlawful forced options was the state’s failure to deal with the prevailing challenges and the reintegration of the displaced migrants back to their communities

From the 2008 shocking outbreaks, the state officials and their unchallenged utterances displayed migrants or “foreign nationals” as the dirt that needs to be swept. Operation Fiela 2015-16 (sweep), was launched to justify utterances by the state officials and also endorsed by the Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini.

These xenophobic outbreaks were deeply rooted in the failure of the current system to address the realistic economic conditions combined with toxic nationalism, not mere criminality as the government and many media outlets wants us to believe. 

Human migration is as old as human kind. From the beginning, human beings moved around in search of places that meet their basic needs. At that time there were no borders or countries.

Today people continue to migrate due to the pressures largely created by economic crisis and climate change. People move from rural areas to urban areas or one country to another in search of a promised “better life for all”, which seems to be taking time to reach them.

Wars, political instability and persecution from dictators also forced people to flee or migrate. All of those are as a results of capitalism, which increased the level of unemployment in South Africa to almost 40%, placing SA second in the world for the highest gap between the rich and poor.

In this light, the government response to the attacks has been very contradictory. State officials have still never apologized for their negative comments about migrants made in public. Meanwhile, government is coming out as the main player in trying to solve the crisis which it helped to create, deliberately diverting attention from its disastrous pro-capitalist policies with the ominously named operation Fiela meaning sweep out the dirt” clamping down on so-called illegal migrants. 

The denial and continued justification of the failure to accept and deal with the climate change catastrophic disaster as an urgent matter of attention affecting the globe is another way that government is avoiding its responsibility.

Those xenophobic outbreaks were linked to the divisions, conflicts, campaigns and the ongoing battle of power within the governing party.

When the ANC farts, it stinks across the country. Attacks on migrants “foreign nationals” has once more dented the credibility of the ANC government, as they had to do the damage control on its diplomatic relations with countries such as Nigeria and Malawi.

These outbreaks, together with the plight of migrants who drown while trying to cross the Mediterranean, have exposed the deep problems of the international capitalist system.

The majority of South Africans condemned the attacks that claimed lives. Many took actions in solidarity with migrants across the country, Joburg being the biggest.

The continued ignored economic crisis, the political unwillingness and blame shifting and the state’s neo liberal or pro-capitalist policies have once again fuelled the 2019 xenophobic attacks in South Africa. 

The state again uses the tax payers’ money to investigate its own failures on corrupt governance, massacres, economic crisis, greed and corruption through commissions. Then they divert their failure to deal with the long acknowledged challenges, they use migrants for scapegoating displaying them as the obstacle towards the dream of better of better life for South Africans, not all. 

The revived “Crackdown on Illegal Migrants” 2019 and so-called crack-down on counterfeit goods involved raids on small shops in Joburg center. Then when it turned ugly between the SAPS and the street vendors who were tired of being illegally daily taxed by the cops and fought back, the state then mobilises the same poor communities it brutalises and criminalises to step in, in the state’s defence. The state then justifies such attacks as raids on the so-called counterfeit good and drug peddling.  Gauteng fuelling the attacks as sections of the ANC, along with the DA, are once again stoking the flames of Xenophobia for cheap political point scoring. As per the constitution and laws of SA (and the ethos of the liberation struggle), everyone who lives here has equal rights to work and live as well as to enjoy all civil and political rights (such as protest). The cheap politics of targeting (constant harassments, forced bribes, confiscation of goods) and blaming ” foreign nationals” (mostly those from Africa or countries with high poverty and political instability such as Bangladesh) for South Africa’s social and economic ills is purely reactionary.

The issue here is that these law enforcement officers are pursuing the so-called counterfeit/ cheap goods in order to protect the capitalist corporations producing these so-called original, expensive brands (Nike, Adidas, Puma and so on). The police are therefore in the service of big business against small businesses. The nationality of the small businesses people is incidental, but foregrounded to incite a xenophobic outflow of sympathy for the officers who were unfortunately injured whilst the small business people were defending their livelihoods and business.

It is the police and the politicians who have been breaking the law with impunity and applying laws based on personal or class interest. It is those in power who must be targeted and brought to book, not poor people (whenever they are from)!

The Gauteng premier recently introduced what they call, “The Township Economy Bill”, which is to be introduced to the legislature for finalisation soon. This simply says that foreign nationals will be prohibited from operating certain businesses in the townships. But it says nothing about the big supermarkets such as Shoprite and Pick n Pay which have squeezed out spaza shops in the years after apartheid.

The impacts

Government used such operations as an excuse to clamp down on service delivery protestors who were not xenophobic. The state lied when it argued that troops were sent to areas hard hit by previous xenophobic attacks. While amongst the first targets were areas such as Thembelihle (in Lenasia led by TCC), Tsakane (in far east rand led by Kwatsaduza Workers and Community Forum), and Makause (in Germiston led by MACODEFO), which have a rich history of both defending migrants through mass meetings and marches, and bravely speaking out against such barbaric xenophobic attacks. Capitalism has ripped solidarity and humanity from the working class and replaced it with competition among each other. It has made us believe that we don’t need each other and we are on our own and if we push harder and compete very strongly we will make it and one day we will be rich. Every other worker has become our enemy and we believe the bosses, the rich and government are our friends, while they are our real targets and enemies.

The SA government has come under criticism for failing to acknowledge that the ongoing attacks on foreign nationals amounted to xenophobia, instead several Ministers called the attacks criminality and lawlessness. But these attacks are properly orchestrated projects with good coordination. (this linked to some ANC factionalism and contradictions); even some backwards thinking opportunist were easily mobilized.

Two African countries, Zambia & Madagascar, withdrew their participation in the friendly game against SA due to the situation. Then three African countries withdrew their participation in the World Economic Forum hosted by SA. 

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari Gov summoned the SA envoy to the World Economic Forum on Tuesday 03/9/19. A special envoy from Buhari was due to arrive in Pretoria on Thursday 05/09/19. In Nigeria Lagos, the SA embassy was forced to close its doors on Wednesday 04/09/19, as vehicles were vandalised during demonstrations and some SA businesses including the MTN and Shoprite also closed after being attacked in response to the current situation in Mzansi.

The situation we all have to deal with, which the state is perpetuating, include:

* Time bomb of high level of unemployment, poverty,

* Land question and human dignity

* Housing and all essential services for ALL.

The state can immediately introduce the living income grant for the 29% unemployed residents, rather than spending it on commissions, legal defence on court actions against the people, letting it be wasted on corruption and state capture such as the arms deal and the nuclear deal). It can speed up the land release programs in the identified pieces of land by the communities currently settling in the land they’ve identified and chosen.

It can increase taxes on the big companies to achieve this.

Additionally it must compensate those who have lost their livelihoods. It must assist asylum seekers to get documents, as most undocumented people are not people trying to evade being documented but people who have been unable to get documents since government closed several refugee processing centres. There must be harsh sentences for perpetrators, but still harsher sentences for government and municipal functionaries who stir up xenophobia. Ultimately we need to fight for a world without borders, and that means rebuilding the left against the growth of the right wing across the world.

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