Xenophobia in South Africa: The war on poverty or reason?
The truth is, capitalism in South Africa uses the principle of economic war on Immigrants to shift local citizens’ attention from the heart of the problem. The true nature of that problem is that traditional big businesses are exploiting workers, making big investments in their companies while employing less and paying less.
Towards the end of 2021, South Africa organised local elections in all municipalities and wards. The results showed a growing trend in the ranks of parties that exploited anti-foreigners and addressed poverty. While many analysts believe the problems faced by the nation are lack of national unity, systematic corruption at the government level, poverty and unemployment, the general public looks at the undesirable situation that expresses the face of their misery. For some citizens, that relate to the employment of foreigners instead of citizens and for others, the problem is the presence of foreigners in the country.
The recurrence of xenophobic threats and attacks in the country needs a serious epistemological approach on the intrinsic understanding of both the regards ordinary South Africans have of Foreigners and the reason behind the negative perception of foreigners in the countries. In this article, I ask the question: Xenophobia, whose truth is it?
From the heritage of divisive developmental policies that enabled white minority to control land and resources of the country, to the progressive attempt to reverse economic and social inequalities since Nelson Mandela’s term, the South African government made move in multiple directions to address historical domestic problems and access the international scene through the peaceful policy of mutual understanding and human rights-based cooperation. After almost 30years since the first democratic elections, many South Africans are questioning the gains made versus the old regime. Academics and research insist on the quality of leadership, persisting corruption and relative accountability of those found guilty.
For the people, sanctioning politicians is the best way to address their grievances. The occasion happens only during elections times. However, the narrative of “Foreigners” in South Africa is a tip of the iceberg in local terminology, especially in the semantic approach of the situation. In general, the term “foreigners” used by local citizens is often referred to Black African Immigrants that are present in South Africa. There is a big number of ordinary citizens that are made to believe African Immigrants are illegal if not all but most. The reality is that the Department of Home Affairs is continuously changing immigration laws and limiting services to immigrants especially targeting African Immigrants since the wake of first xenophobic attacks in 2008. There are immigrants using Asylum Seeker paper for more than 15 years and the laws is continuously changing in limiting the change of status. The employment of immigrants in the country is limited and recently adopted even from the application of special skills visas.
The question is, are African Immigrants holding South African jobs?
Several economies around the world got shaken by the effects of the global pandemic Covid-19. Even the most reliable economies of Scandinavia such as Norway and Sweden had their growth revised and declined for the past two years. As a consequence, many jobs were lost, industries suffered losses and governments around the world provided economic subsidies relief packages and the US, France, South Africa among others boosted domestic economies with economic stimulus. Though the move was to limit the impact of the pandemic on national economies, most unemployed people depended on the government’s grant in South Africa which did have an average reasonable impact on their lives. South Africa went on lockdown since 2021 shifting from different levels and adjusted states. African Immigrants survived by miracle in the midst of the pandemic. Holding South Africans jobs is a matter of looking at where the money goes. There is no allocation of money by the South African government for the employment of African Immigrants. The owners of big businesses in the country are those who hold the national economy in key industries.
The truth is, capitalism in South Africa uses the principle of economic war on Immigrants to shift local citizens’ attention from the heart of the problem. The true nature of that problem is that traditional big businesses are exploiting workers, making big investments in their companies while employing less and paying less. On the government side, fewer opportunities are rising for the majority poor population yearly while graduates’ numbers increase. The lack of national strategy on employment of young graduates nourishes the narrative of “blame game” on African Immigrants who are mostly self-employed in majority.
Xenophobia is a means of survival strategy for capitalism in regards to internal increasing pressure for the unemployed to get jobs. Faced with such reality, the government’s protection of businesses in contradiction to policy suggestions made by Trade Unions such as South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) to address youth unemployment is shifting the blame on the easiest targets that are African Immigrants. Consequently, the ordinary citizens are looking on the weak probable target. For the interest of the cause, xenophobia is the truth of the wealthy shielded by a culture of corruption that portrays an apparent responsibility projected towards African Immigrants, endorsed by those with political interest and people who escape confronting reason in order to understand why they should hate on their fellows black Africans instead of looking at the real responsible of South African economic woe.