Back in 2015, a spate of horrendous xenophobic attacks in South Africa caught the world’s attention, and images and videos played out on screens around the globe.
Perhaps the most infamous is the daytime murder of Emmanuel Sithole, a man from Mozambique, who was hunted through the streets and killed.
Whilst the media coverage has subsided, xenophobia against foreigners in South Africa has not, and many continue to live in fear.
According to a new study by the Human Sciences Research Council, which canvased the views of ordinary South Africans on what lies behind anti-foreigner sentiments, the reasons are multifaceted.
Quartz report on some of the details from that study:
Overall, 71% of the respondents said that the threat posed by immigrants from outside South Africa was the main reason for the violence…
Only a small minority (5%) described violence against foreigners as irrational, illogical or unknowable. An even smaller portion (2%) rejected the premise of the question and said that attacks against foreigners were “just the work of criminals”.
That only 5% outright rejected the violence is a staggering statistic.
The study saw 3 098 people above the age of 16 surveyed. The question went as follows:
There are many opinions about why people take violent action against foreigners living in South Africa. Please tell me the main reason why you think this happens.
Let’s check in with the findings:
About a third (30%) of the general public said that the violence was caused by foreigners stealing jobs from hardworking South Africans. Other economic causes cited were the alleged unfair business practices of foreign-owned small businesses and that immigrants used up resources (such as housing).
The criminal threat posed by international immigrants was the second most frequently mentioned cause of anti-immigrant violence. Almost a third (30%) said that communities were responding to the criminal activities of the migrants. Many people attributed the violence to foreigners’ involvement in drug trafficking.
About 5% of the respondents identified other threats they claimed foreigners posed as the main reason for the attacks. These included the sexual exploitation of women as well as a general sense that immigrants wanted to “take over the country”.
How about this one from left field – 10% said the violence against foreigners was down to the envy of their success, or the ingenuity of foreigners.
How dare they come to South Africa, work really hard and make a life for themselves.
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