"Black on black racism at the height of stupidity"

An anti-xenophobia protest in Johannesburg yesterday. Photo: Christo Doherty.

Forty-two people have been killed since the outbreak of violent clashes between native South Africans and Zimbabwean refugees in Johannesburg.

The violence began at the beginning of last week when mobs of South African youths started attacking foreign migrants, many of whom are Zimbabweans who have fled their country because of a brutal crackdown following elections at the end of March. The aggression towards the refugees is thought to be a reaction to rising food prices and high unemployment rates among the poor working classes, who blame Zimbabweans for taking their jobs. Since the beginning of the chaos, 42 people have been killed, 400 arrested and 16,000 displaced. Yesterday, President Thabo Mbeki called on troops to halt the attacks.

"This stuff won't stop us coming over the border"

Daniel Molokele is a Zimbabwean living in South Africa. He works as a human rights lawyer in Johannesburg.

Zimbabweans coming here do find work, they're cheap labour. Most of them are overqualified for the jobs they do - teachers become housemaids etc. There's prejudice everywhere, even with professionals. I feel safe because I live in a nice area with good security, but I've definitely noticed a reaction when people realise I'm Zimbabwean. They try to get you to speak the local language, they don't like speaking English. The problem is the stark difference between black Zimbabweans and black South Africans. We are much better educated because of a stable society in the nineteen-eighties. We're the best educated on the continent! So they should feel threatened, it's natural.

2008 has been a bad year; more crime, increased trouble with the government, food prices... things are getting more uncertain. This was always coming; it was just a matter of time. It's about survival - these people are desperate. It's noticeable that there are more Zimbabweans on the street now. This stuff won't stop them coming over the border - it's still so bad in Zimbabwe. We need UN help. I'd be tempted to say send the army in but I think they'll be too harsh."

"It's black on black racism at the height of stupidity"

Ndumiso Ngcobo is a South African school teacher from Johannesburg.

It's nothing like what you see in the media. The situation is not out of hand, it's localised. And even the areas that are affected, I've been to them and seen nothing - except for a few skirmishes in the street. They're not an organised group, they have no political party, they're just a bunch of street thugs. If the real issue was xenophobia, it doesn't make sense because no Pakistanis, eastern European or Chinese people are involved. It's black on black racism at the height of stupidity - even some South Africans have been killed because they were mistaken for foreigners.

This is not specific to South Africa. It's just like in Europe except that we're not used to it here. There is a lot of resentment against foreigners. This is a very closed society - since 1994 there hasn't been such an influx of people. But I don't understand how it's got as far as murder! These people cannot reach the ones they're really angry at - the government."

"If we had a choice, we wouldn't be here"

ZimStallion is a Zimbabwean living in Cape Town. We found this on his blog (http://zimstallion.blogspot.com/):

Xenophobia, for those that have lived under a rock their entire life, is the jealous hatred of foreigners living in one's country...

Q: Why have so many Zimbabweans desperately flooded into South Africa?

A: Because there is a sh**head President in Zimbabwe who beats the living daylights out of them for no good reason.

Q: Why is there a sh**head President in Zimbabwe?
A: Because there is also a sh**head President in South Africa, who stops the rest of the world from putting a bullet through his head.

Q: Why do sh**head South African citizens take it out on poor innocent Zimbabwean refugees?

A: Because sh**head South Africans are lazy, and are used to having things handed to them on a plate, whereas a Zimbabwean will actually work for something. This is the reason a Zimbabwean is chosen for a job over Joe South African.

Christ, South Africa, I'll explain this as simply as possible so that you get it into your thick skulls: Get your sh**head President to stop shielding the sh**head Zimbabwean President, and we will ALL f**k off back home in a split-second. Then you can have your shitty jobs and shitty country back. Because if we had a choice, we wouldn't be here."

Posted by ZimStallion May 19.

Protests against the attacks in Johannesburg

Photos: Christo Doherty on Flickr.

Staff and students at Witwatersrand University on Jan Smut Avenue, Johannesburg, demonstrated against the xenophobic attacks yesterday (21 May 08). Christo Doherty, a professor at the university, took part.

I took part in the demonstration yesterday because I feel very strongly that the mob violence directed at foreign Africans in South Africa is unacceptable. Like most of my colleagues, I firmly believe that the violence is a consequence of serious failures in the policies of the South African government and must be addressed by the government. Most significantly, South Africa has absorbed an estimated 3.5 million refugees from the economic and political meltdown in Zimbabwe; but the South African government still pretends that there is no crisis going on; and has taken no steps to recognize the extent of the problem. When you combine that with the high levels of unemployment and desperation in the poorer parts of our cities (where most of the violence has taken place), together with the collapse of law and order, it is little surprise that we are experiencing these outbreaks of xenophobia."

Comments

Trying to make sense of it...

So do I keep complaining and lamenting and wondering what is happening in the minds of the people perpetrating this violence or maybe I should go and interview one of the attackers? Maybe I should hear in their words what could possibly cause so much hatred and anger that you can murder a man who yesterday was your neighbour, rape a woman you may have travelled to work with last week and make homeless thousands of innocent children who had no part in the decisions taken by their parents? To me it all seems inconceivable, but then I wake up every morning with food in the fridge, a little money in the bank, two cars in the garage, a job to go to and a school for my children. My father always said “Never judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes… that way by the time he realises you are judging him you will be two miles away and have his shoes!” My father is a wise man.

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