Friday, March 10, 2017

Why is South Africa still so anti-black, so many years after apartheid? By Panashe Chigumadzi

A recent spate of violent attacks led to an anti-xenophobia protest on 9 March. About 200 locals and foreigners, under the banner of the Coalition of Civics against Xenophobia, took to the streets of Pretoria calling for an end to the violence against foreign-born Africans and South Asians in South Africa’s townships and inner cities. Today Shoshozola has a painful irony as migrants find themselves no longer welcome in post-apartheid South Africa

Having been born in Zimbabwe and lived in South Africa for as long as it has been a democracy, I was as warmed by the solidarity as I was upset by the violence. I am reassured especially to see reports of the march acknowledge that “issues of unemployment‚ housing and crime are central” to the attacks.

Understanding and acknowledging the root causes of the violence has been largely missing from the public discourse here in South Africa. Too often the attackers have been dismissed as “irrational”, or provoked calls for more “hospitality that defines our democratic order”, in the words of the Nelson Mandela Foundation. Both reactions seem to miss two key facts: South Africa isn’t anti-immigrant, it’s anti-black, and this violence is evidence that the “miracle” has failed the very people it should have uplifted – poor black South Africans.

Explaining why the violence is specifically anti-black or Afrophobic, the University of South Africa professor Rodney Tshaka described xenophobia as the fear of the other, while “Afrophobia is fear of a specific other: the black other from north of the Limpopo river [in other words, from Zimbabwe or Mozambique and beyond them, the rest of Africa]. If foreigners generally were the main target, those who are anti-foreigner would no doubt have sought out all foreigners and made it known that they are not welcome in this country.”

The fact that Africans bear the brunt of the violence isn’t simply about the numbers, though over 75% of international migrants living in South Africa come from the rest of the continent. Foreignness, or the notion of “other”, has a long, anti-black history in South Africa. Until 1994’s elections, black South Africans were not citizens of South Africa, but of “homelands” or “Bantustans”, areas where the black population was resettled under apartheid. The South Africa of postcards was the preserve of the white settler minority, who did not see themselves as part of the African continent… read more: