Earlier this year the media reported on xenophobic violence that had erupted in South Africa. There have been numerous attacks against foreign residents and foreign businesses, particularly south of Johannesburg and the west of Pretoria.
While this type of violence is not altogether new, it does not always get media attention. Unfortunately, xenophobia has been a feature in post-apartheid South Africa. As Africa’s most industrialised country, South Africa attracts thousands of foreigners every year who are seeking refuge from poverty, economic crises, war and persecution.
Often scapegoated by the establishment, many South Africans perceive foreigners as a threat to their livelihoods blaming them instead of the government and employers for unemployment, crime and poor service delivery. Violent attacks on foreigners are often encouraged by business groups and other right-wing formations.
In an attempt to gloss over the problems that exist, the ruling African National Congress (ANC), describes xenophobic violence as “just crime and not xenophobia”. This is a politically convenient categorisation for the ANC that excuses them from addressing any of the core problems.
In contrast, the Coalition of Civics Against Xenophobia was launched by the Workers and Socialist Party (WASP) in Pretoria – our sister organisation in South Africa. This campaign has linked up dozens of immigrant groups alongside community organisations. They coordinated a march with the slogan “Unite against poverty, crime and xenophobia”.
Whilst the immediate threat of widespread xenophobic violence appears to have receded, the task of organising communities – uniting foreign residents and locals – is just beginning. With the successes of this campaign under the Coalition’s belt, the next step is extending its work across the country.
There is an increasing need to build a powerful new socialist force in South Africa that organises people from all backgrounds and leads mass action for job creation, service delivery, and the stamping out of crime. WASP plans to help build this force.
By Amy Neve