Rumours of new Xenophobic Attacks in South Africa

South African NGO Lesidi La Batho is helping to build understanding between refugees and the local community.

South African NGO Lesidi La Batho is helping to build understanding between refugees and the local community.

Rumours of new attacks in 2009

In late May 2009, reports emerged regarding a possible resurgence of xenophobic related activity and the organising of attacks in the Western Cape. Reports of threats and secret meetings by local businessmen surfaced in Gugulethu, Khayelitsha and Philippi, Cape Town. Samora Machel in Philippi once again emerging as a flash-point.[55] In Gugulethu, reports emerged of secret meetings by local businessmen discussing ‘what to do about Somali shopkeepers’. The Anti-Eviction Campaign brought these issues to the open by organising a series of anti-xenophobia meetings attempting to find the root cause of the crisis.

Rumours of new attacks in 2010

In 2010 the press carried numerous articles claiming that there would be massive planned xenophobic violence at the end of the 2010 Football World Cup. However this did not happen.

New Attacks in 2012

In July 2012 there were new attacks in parts of Cape Town and in Botshabelo in the Free State.

‘Fortress South Africa’

South Africa’s borders have been remilitarized. According to Christopher McMichael:

“This shared state-corporate project of building up a ‘fortress South Africa’ also reveals a deeply entrenched seam of xenophobia, in which undocumented migrants and refugees from African countries are painted as a security risk akin to terrorism and organised crime. Parliamentary discussions on border security are rife with claims that foreign nationals are attempting to drain social grants and economic opportunities from citizens. The packaging of illegal immigration as a national security threat, which often relies on unsubstantiated claims about the inherent criminality of foreign nationals, provides an official gloss on deeply entrenched governmental xenophobia, in which African immigrants are targets for regular harassment, rounding up and extortion by the police. This normalisation of immigrants as figures of resentment may also fuel outbreaks of xenophobic violence.”

Gepos Bon Carolyne Ahiambo Ngara vlugtelinge in Suid-Afrika

Refugees in South Africa

Refugee camps and reintegration question

South Africa Immigrants Attacks

After being housed in temporary places of safety (including police stations and community halls) for three weeks, those who fled the violence were moved into specially established temporary camps. Conditions in some camps were condemned on the grounds of location and infrastructure,  highlighting their temporary nature.

The South African government initially adopted a policy of quickly reintegrating refugees into the communities they originally fled and subsequently set a deadline in July 2008, by which time refugees would be expected to return to their communities or countries of origin. After an apparent policy shift the government vowed that there would be no forced reintegration of refugees and that the victims would not be deported, even if they were found to be illegal immigrants.

In May 2009, one year after the attacks, the City of Cape Town said it would apply for an eviction order to force 461 remaining refugees to leave two refugee camps in that city.

 Gepos Bon Carolyne Ahiambo Ngara vlugtelinge in Suid-Afrika

Xenophobia in South Africa Before 1994

South African residents showcase a banne

European immigration

Restrictions on immigration can be traced back to the Union of South Africa, with the different states adopting different policies on foreigners. A prejudice against immigrants from eastern and southern Europe (measured against the welcome of those from western and northern Europe) has been documented. In the Cape Colony the Cape Immigration Act (No 30) of 1906 set as requirement the ability to complete an application form in a European language (including Yiddish) and proof of £20 as visible means of support.

Mozambican and Congolese immigrants before 1994

Between 1984 and the end of hostilities in that country an estimated 250 000 to 350 000 Mozambicans fled to South Africa. While never granted refugee status they were technically allowed to settle in the bantustans or black homelands created by the apartheid government. The reality was more varied, with the homeland of Lebowa banning Mozambican settlers outright while Gazankulu welcomed the refugees with support in the form of land and equipment. Those in Gazankulu, however, found themselves confined to the homeland and liable for deportation should they enter South Africa proper, and evidence exists that their hosts denied them access to economic resource.

Unrest and civil war likewise saw large numbers of Congolese immigrate to South Africa, many illegally, in 1993 and 1997. Subsequent studies found indications of xenophobic attitudes towards these refugees, typified by their being denied access to the primary healthcare to which they were technically entitled.

Gepos Bon Carolyne Ahiambo Ngara vlugtelinge in Suid-Afrika