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Xenophobia in South Africa, a Case of Insipid Resentment By Patrick Fynn

April 22, 2015

When you are little, night time is scary because there are monsters hiding under the bed. When you get older, the monsters are different and though you may be mature, you still find yourself scared of the dark. Fear never leaves us, but keeps showing its head in different forms.


Being in a forest can be creepy, so xylophobia which is a fear of forests is justifiable. It’s equally not awkward to have xyrophobia, fear of razors; it may be necessary for personal safety. And a lot of us have the fear of foreign languages, in what is called xenoglossophobia. These are all ordinary.

But Xenophobia, a dislike of foreigners? What is that?

It doesn’t sound like a good, admissible type of phobia. The last time we heard of it, it was trending at the south of Africa; in a country that has been through dark moments of oppression. We woke up to the news that the nation that had once suffered apartheid is now been hit by a wave of violence against immigrants.

Shops have been looted and set ablaze. Human beings are slain and burnt into ashes. Women and children are flogged on streets. Terrified foreigners hide in police stations and stadia, fleeing from machete-wielding attackers. This is not the first time xenophobic violence has exploded in the country. Seven years ago, stealing, rape and murder were recorded in the cities of Johannesburg and Cape Town in a similarly brutal pogrom.

And like every phobia, the fear is intense and unmerited.

As seeds grow into flowers, in stark contrast xenophobia has matured into racism. Xenophobia, afrophobia, racism, terrorism are deadly diseases with similar presenting symptoms – and when they become acute, the results are devastating. What is happening in some parts of the country is in total disregard for human lives! To hack foreigners to death in such barbaric manners is unreasonable, arbitrary, illogical and irrational.

And it is a pity that the very people whose nations sacrificed to help South Africans fight, repel and defeat apartheid will today be considered parasites and aliens.

The nightmare your brothers from other countries are going through is obviously more haunting than when you were politically persecuted. Ghanaians, Nigerians, Zimbabweans, Mozambicans are persecuted in your streets with the same cruelty that the apartheid police persecuted freedom fighters inside and outside the country, years ago. After that violence and hate that came with apartheid, you are the last people we expect to treat others with contempt.

See, the attacks are not merely cruel against these immigrants, but on the nation itself. This is an indelible stain that will require almost nothing to fade.

The massacre, according to reports is precipitated by the protest that African immigrants are taking their already scarce job and undermining businesses owned by locals. So what happens when you remove every black foreigner from your country? Will it stop your hunger for bloodshed and crime? Will you finally seize the opportunities around you and become entrepreneurs even when you are unqualified or does the killing consequently make you managers?

It is documented that the country has about 2 million immigrants, which is about 4% of the 50 million population, and an unemployment rate of about 25%; meaning for every 4 persons living in the country 1 is unemployed. This clearly points out the economic exclusions and hardships these communities are exposed to. It is only in South Africa that an illiterate villager thinks a qualified medical doctor from another country is the reason for his unemployment. What frustration can do!

See, immigrants contribute to a nation’s economy and bring skills that are in demand. To stereotype them as criminals is sheer bigotry. Indeed the muggers involved in this barbaric act must be condemned by all and justice needs to be served to those leaders who incited hate crimes and violence.

Africans killing Africans?

Xenophobia is when we can’t look beyond our countries and ethnicity. It is disheartening this is what the black man has reduced himself to. We are our own enemies. After all, ‘Hedgehogs are not porcupines and lizards are not crocodiles because they look alike’. So if someone asks me if I am an African, I might just say, I’m a citizen of the world.

Author: Patrick Fynn


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