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Xenophobia: in Light of Recent Attacks in South Africa

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Emmanuella Ekokotu
Ekokotu Emmanuella is a sociologist and Anthropologist, writer, and fashion model who lives in Benin city, Edo state,Nigeria.

Xenophobia: in the wake of recent attacks against Nigerians and other black foreigners in South Africa, the rest of the world is left with hundreds of questions and opinions about why the people of South Africa have chosen to disrupt the peace their Hero’s fought to restore in the past.

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When cities or nations get overpopulated, the government takes the necessary steps to check the population growth.

Educating citizens on the importance of child spacing, encouraging the use of various family planning methods, setting family size limits, restriction, and deportation of illegal immigrants as population checking methods that may be explored.

But what about xenophobia? is it also a way to regulate the population of a specific group of people? Xenophobia is carried out through the means of dynamic public rhetoric that actively vilifies and stigmatizes migrants as individuals whose presence represent a ‘threat’ and making them scapegoats for various social problems.

From: International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences (Second Edition), 2015

Xenophobia is a concept that cannot be discussed separately from normative concepts that are keen on attempts to mark ‘one’s own’ separate from ‘the other.’ Some of those normative concepts are race, ethnicity, nation, and culture.

In social both political and social reality, xenophobia presents itself in accordance with the division of the universe into one’s own race, nation, ethnic group, and even culture, and then other races, nations, ethnic groups, and cultures.

This is a type of symbolic and normative worldview that can only promote self-centeredness and creates precisely the specific cognitive framework within which hateful attacks like xenophobia is spawned, articulated, and eventually disseminated.

The two emotional states that characteristics xenophobia attacks are hatred and fear of migrants. Which means that xenophobic people rely on subjective experience, and seek some form of social value to give room for a valid reason to focus on their subject.

Hatred of whatever is strange or foreign is always the basis on which naming and objectification are brought about. Labeling is the first major step towards creating the object against which hate for other individuals from a foreign land can be directed.

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The modulation of the intensity of xenophobia occurs mostly when there is valuing of the object; it triggers the change from fear of the group of foreigners —i.e., latent xenophobia—to hatred of the group of foreigners —i.e., virulent xenophobia.

Fields that deal with xenophobia

Two scientific fields specifically deal with xenophobia: while the social psychologists examine forms of ingroup/outgroup characters or behavior in which xenophobia can show up in its latent form, the researchers in the humanities and social sciences explore and interpret the social construction of xenophobia as well as its effect in modern societies.

In the lay man’s or everyday terms, ‘xenophobia’ as a word, is now used in reference to dislike of foreigners, such as being antiforeign, anti-immigration, and/or anti-different groups, while ‘xenophobia’ in sociology and the social sciences, in general, has imported some semantic changes that connect mega-events such as the Danish Muhammad cartoon crisis of 2005–06, 9/11, as well as the bombing and killings on 22 July 2011 in Norway.

This new development means that xenophobia (which now includes Islamophobia) and nativism enfolds the idea of cultural incompatibility and the naturalization of xenophobic attitudes that results from it.

Out of this, the understanding of xenophobia as a natural reaction, reveals that antimigration rises as a nativist necessity with a right to project ‘one’s own culture’ while either denying that cultural and political self-defense can be racist or legitimizing racism.

Before the year 1994, immigrants from elsewhere else in the world faced discrimination and even violence in South Africa. Worse still, after majority rule in 1994, the incidence of xenophobia increased, contrary to expectations.

In South Africa, Between 2000 and March 2008, at least 67 individuals died in a series of attacks that were identified as xenophobic. In May 2008, a series of attacks recorded 62 deaths: although 21 of the individuals killed in these attacks were South African citizens.

All the attacks were motivated by xenophobia. Similarly, In 2015, yet another nationwide rise in xenophobic attacks against immigrants caused a number of foreign governments to start massive repatriation of their citizens.

A Pew Study poll that was conducted in 2018 revealed that 62% of South Africans considered immigrants a huge burden on society by taking social benefits and jobs, and another 61% of South Africans believed that immigrants were more to be blamed for crime than other groups.

In South Africa, between the year 2010 and 2017, the immigrant community increased in population from 2 million people to 4 million people.

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There has been a fresh strike on September 2019, and this time, it is a xenophobic attack against Nigerians.

South Africa is facing serious criticism at the moment over fresh xenophobic attacks against African immigrants and foreign-owned businesses in the country.

An angry mob vandalized, looted, and burned vehicles, shops, and other properties belonging to Nigerians living in South Africa after fresh violence flared on Sunday.

According to reports from South Africa police, only five people were killed and 189 people who were allegedly involved in the violence have been arrested.

However, eyewitnesses and viral footage of the crisis suggest that the report is making light of the situation as lots of lives and properties have been lost. Many foreign-owned stores were targeted in the violence.

As we have mentioned before Xenophobic and anti-immigrant attacks are not just starting in South Africa.

In Durban, this April, demonstrators forced hundreds of foreigners from their houses and carted away with some valuables belonging to foreign-owned businesses in Durban.

They claimed that said foreigners had dominated the South African workplace, and taken jobs that should have been filled by South Africans.

In 2017, there was yet another violent anti-immigrant protest that broke out in the capital of South Africa, Pretoria. In 2015, several lives were lost, and thousands of immigrants fled after xenophobic attacks across South Africa.

On Wednesday, Ethiopia’s foreign ministry claimed rioters destroyed some businesses owned by Ethiopians living in South Africa in the fresh attacks which started in Jeppestown but has quickly spread to other areas in South Africa.

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Students in Zambia took to the streets we’d demonstrated in front of a South African owned business identified as Pick N Pay store on Tuesday in protest against the recent attacks.

Zambia’s transport ministry has also issued a warning to truck drivers against traveling to South Africa until the uprising dies down or gets resolved.

On Tuesday, the South African President Cyril Ramaphosa warned that the new attacks could lead to violence against South African citizens abroad.

President Ramaphosa said;

“The attacks on people who run businesses from foreign nationals is totally unacceptable. There can be no justification whatsoever about what people are having a grievance over that they should go out and attack people from other countries because when they do so here, they should also know that fellow South Africans will be attacked in other countries”.

Nigerians have chosen to boycott all South African owned businesses in Nigeria till the xenophobic attacks on its citizens in diaspora stop.

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