Attacks no panacea to South Africa woes
There is a growing global resistance to immigrants. The reasons are myriad and vary from country to country.
But the common reasons include economic concerns such as the loss of job and business opportunities to foreigners, terrorism, fear of loss of cultural and religious identity, racism, nationalism and other prejudices.
Different countries or people choose different ways to respond to the problem of immigrants. They range from the lawful to the outrightly criminal. The latter is where the ongoing xenophobic attacks in South Africa fall.
It would be dishonest to deny that South Africans have valid concerns and fears about immigrants from the rest of the continent.
Like everywhere, immigrants come with their own baggage, a burden which tends to be borne by the underprivileged in society.
But it should also be acknowledged that foreigners are not entirely to blame for the woes of ordinary South Africans.
Quarter of a century after the end of apartheid and the advent of democratic rule, the majority of South Africans are still stuck in abject poverty, cannot earn a living wage and have no means to set up businesses from which to eke out a living.
While the policies of the post-apartheid administrations have failed to lift a majority of the people out of poverty, they have created a new elite of black South Africans, some of whom have made their wealth by corrupting the system.
To those left behind, the post-apartheid dream has been betrayed. The recurring episodes of misplaced xenophobic attacks are partly a symptom of this feeling of betrayal.
It is unfortunate that when the people of South Africa lash out, they hit the lowest and the nearest — fellow Africans some seeking opportunities, others running away from economic and political problems in their own countries.
Visiting violence on fellow Africans, or any other immigrants, will not, however, deliver the South African dream.
That can only worsen a bad situation, isolate the country, weaken an already struggling economy and attract reprisals. South Africa’s problems will not be solved by xenophobia — immigrants are a mere scapegoat.
The culprits are the politicians and the failed policies of the rainbow nation. It is time to recalibrate the strategies to deliver the South Africa of Nelson Mandela’s vision.