more thoughts on anti-immigraton violence

Kameelah adds to the discussion on xenophobia in South Africa by linking to a number of articles in Pambazuka News and by making a connection between the violence, poverty and global food crisis.

connected to this food crisis is the rise in violence against immigrants especially in south africa–joburg to be specific though cape town has had it’s share of anti-somali violence………….it certainly breaks my heart to see poor folks turn on each other rather than channeling this anger in a productive way that targets the people and institutions that are more responsible for this crisis than a 20-something zimbabwean fleeing mugabe. but in reality, having not eaten in two days and being unemployed for two months, i really cannot expect a town hall meeting and a civil discussion. folks are hungry and frustrated.

One of the articles in Pambazuka News by Owen Sichone, traces violences across the continent – Nigeria, Uganda, Rwanda – and asks why anyone should be surprised over SA’s response to foreigners. The important point is that Sichone reiterates the connection between anti-immigration, poverty and social inequalities.

So why is Pius “confounded by the fact that Black South Africa had begun to manufacture its own kaffirs so soon after apartheid” ? Like the Biafrans, they have been let done by their leaders. Just look at post-elections Kenya and see the petty bourgeois selfishness that Museveni criticised in his own country and you will understand that South African leaders have not just keep silent about the support they received from the Frontline States (including Nigeria) but that they have not shared the national cake equitably. The inherited Brazilian style gap between rich and poor always creates violence in society. There is still apartheid in post apartheid South Africa and it is not just the foreign Africans who suffer. Indeed the Nigerian doctors and other professionals are more likely to be beneficiaries of the end of the apartheid system than the poor workers whose factories closed down because of the flood of cheaper Chinese goods onto a previously protected market and now have no hope of ever earning wages again.

So let us not portray South Africans as ignorant, ungrateful or just bloodthirsty. The only way to reverse xenophobia, whether in Nigeria, Russia or South Africa is by exposing its roots in social inequalities and joining the struggle against social injustice.

The reasons given by indigenous people for their dislike of immigrants is the same whether in South Africa, Britain, France or the US. They are taking our jobs, our women, they are responsible for increases in the crime rate, they walk off the plane / boat / bus and into a flat, they undermine our labour. Sit on a bus in London and watch when a Somali woman gets on with a pram and a toddler. The hostility is so thick in the air you could cut it with a knife and it’s not just white people who are hostile. The reality is so far from the myth, so how does the myth begin to dominate and feed the hostility and violence? The media creates and uses the myth to either attack one political party’s policies or support another, so in the UK you have a situation where the present Labour government is desperately trying to hold on to power and immigration is the ideal issue to latch on to because it feeds into people’s myths about why they don’t have a job or a flat. You only need one story in the Daily Mail about a Nigerian woman who “heard” you can get a flat easy with a child so went to Nigeria bought a baby for £150 and came back to get a council flat, for all immigrants to be crooks, liars and baby thieves and worse “Africans sell their babies!” Hating and blaming someone you see every day for your poverty is so much easier than facing up to the fact that you don’t have a flat because Thatcher sold everyone the idea of home ownership as opposed to social housing which was never replaced. And now there just isn’t enough to go around and never will be unless a government is elected that will start to build the millions of homes needed – in that sense the chickens cant roost cause they have no home to come back to.

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