Xenophobia in South Africa After 1994

A policeman walks past a burning shack after xenophobia attacks in a Johannesburg squatter camp.

A policeman walks past a burning shack after xenophobia attacks in a Johannesburg squatter camp.

Despite a lack of directly comparable data, xenophobia in South Africa is perceived to have significantly increased after the installation of a democratic government in 1994. According to a 2004 study published by the Southern African Migration Project (SAMP):

“The ANC government – in its attempts to overcome the divides of the past and build new forms of social cohesion… embarked on an aggressive and inclusive nation-building project. One unanticipated by-product of this project has been a growth in intolerance towards outsiders… Violence against foreign citizens and African refugees has become increasingly common and communities are divided by hostility and suspicion.”

The study was based on a citizen survey across member states of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and found South Africans expressing the harshest anti-foreigner sentiment, with 21% of South Africans in favour of a complete ban on entry by foreigners and 64% in favour of strict limitations on the numbers allowed. By contrast, the next-highest proportion of respondents in favour of a total ban on foreigners were in neighbouring Namibia and Botswana, at 10%.

Foreigners and the South African Police Service

A 2004 study by the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) or attitudes among police officers in the Johannesburg area found that 87% of respondents believed that most undocumented immigrants in Johannesburg are involved in crime, despite there being no statistical evidence to substantiate the perception. Such views combined with the vulnerability of illegal aliens led to abuse, including violence and extortion, some analysts argued.

In a March 2007 meeting with home affairs minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula a representative of Burundian refugees in Durban claimed immigrants could not rely on police for protection but instead found police mistreating them, stealing from them and making unfounded allegations that they sell drugs. Two years earlier, at a similar meeting in Johannesburg, Mapisa-Nqakula had admitted that refugees and asylum seekers were mistreated by police with xenophobic attitudes.

Gepos Bon Carolyne Ahiambo Ngara vlugtelinge in Suid-Afrika

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Xenophobia in South Africa

everyone-a-foreigner

Xenophobia in South Africa

Prior to 1994 immigrants from elsewhere in Africa faced discrimination and even violence in South Africa, though much of that risk stemmed from the institutionalised racism of the time due to apartheid. After 1994 and democratisation, and contrary to expectations, the incidence of xenophobia increased, Between 2000 and March 2008 at least 67 people died in what were identified as xenophobic attacks. In May 2008 a series of riots left 62 people dead; although 21 of those killed were South African citizens. The attacks were apparently motivated by xenophobia.

Xenophobia in South Africa Before 1994

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.

Gepos Bon Carolyne Ahiambo Ngara vlugtelinge in Suid-Afrika

 

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