12 Shocking Things About South Africa’s Xenophobic Attacks

April 20, 2015

In the last two weeks, South African towns of Durban and Johannesburg have flared up with Xenophobic attacks against foreigners living and working in the Africa’s second largest economy. Foreigners from other African countries like Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique have been forced to seek refuge at police stations and stadiums as machete-wielding attackers hacked and burnt at least four immigrants to death.

This is not the first time such attacks have exploded the “Rainbow Nation” — ironically meaning a country where all people live together in harmony. In 2008, 62 people were reportedly killed in a similar wave of violence.

Zulu king

1. Comments by a local ceremonial king sparked off the violence

The current wave of xenophobic attacks started after a Zulu King,  Goodwill Zwelithini, said that foreigners “should pack their bags and go” because they are taking jobs from locals. The first attack in the part city of Durban happened immediately after these comments. Zwelithini has however denied his comments were meant to spark the killings.

police man laughing

2. Image of a police officer laughing at a man engulfed in flames has gone viral on social media

A photo depicting a South African police officer seemingly smiling as a man in a crawling position burn has gone viral on social media with some people asking if the policeman was laughing at the burning man. Some foreign nationals have complained that the South African police have failed to protect them.



3. Other African countries are evacuating their citizens from South Africa

African nations, including Kenya, Malawi and Zimbabwe have said they will evacuate their citizens from South Africa. The xenophobic attacks have focused more on African immigrants to South Africa.



4. More shops were looted after President Zuma called for peace

Foreign-owned shops in South Africa’s capital Johannesburg were attacked and looted in  an eastern suburb of Johannesburg just a day after President Zuma condemned the series of xenophobic attacks in a speech to the country’s parliament.


5. Only black African immigrants are being attacked

Only black African immigrants have been targeted in the attacks since they are seen as the main antagonists in taking jobs suited for locals. South African black associate the word “foreign” with other African immigrants, while white immigrants especially from Europe or America are “often lumped up with tourists, or even better, referred to as expats.”


6. Immigrants have formed a vigilante group to protect them against attacks

In Johannesburg foreign national in an eastern suburb have formed an immigrant vigilante group armed with machetes to protect them against the attacks. South African police have at times been forced to fired rubber bullets and stun grenades to dispel standoffs between these vigilantes and locals.


7. South African workers in Mozambique are fleeing retaliatory attacks

Several international companies in Mozambique have said that their South African workers are leaving the country after the wave of violence against “foreigners” in Durban. Among those affected are South Africa’s Sasol Petroleum and construction company Kentz.


8. South Africa and Mozambique Border post closed over attacks

A border post separating South Africa and Mozambique was closed after a group of Mozambicans barricaded the area. The mob of about 200 people shut down a truck stop about five miles away from the Mozambique town of Ressano Garcia in what was reported as a response to the xenophobic attacks in South Africa.

Mugabe's comment

9. Zimbabwean President, whose country evicted white farmers, has condemned the attacks

Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe, who country forcibly evicted white settler farmers from their land in the early 2000’s, has ironically condemned the attacks on foreign nationals in neighboring South Africa. Mugabe expressed “shock and disgust” at the “horrible” xenophobic attacks. It is estimated that over one million Zimbabweans live and work in South Africa.


10. Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini plans to lead an Anti-Xenophobic discussion

Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini, whose comments are linked to the recent attacks in Durban, is planning to hold a tribal meeting against the Xenophobic attacks that have spread to Johannesburg. Zwelithini plans to gather heredity leaders together for a chat about xenophobia. BizNews.com quoted Alec Hogg saying it was “like someone offering to tend the wounded after throwing a hand grenade into a room.”

International Criminal Court

11. low numbers of convictions from previous Xenophobic attacks is in question

Over the last week 310 people have been arrested in relation with the attacks, but human rights bodies are raising questions about SA’s response to frequent waves of xenophobic violence and the lack of convictions. In similar attacks in 2008, over 500 people were arrested and charged with public violence, malicious damage to property, and grievous bodily harm, but most of them were released for lack of evidence.

Photo: digitalpicturelibrarymanager.wordpress

 12. Most South African’s have condemned the attacks

Most South Africans have condemned the violence. Former Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi is planning a People’s March Against Xenophobia on Thursday in Johannesburg. It is expected that over 30,000 people will participate in a show of solidarity with foreign nationals targeted in the violence.

Source: AFK Insider

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