Small but vocal part of SA is xenophobic

15 August 2019 - 20:34 By Ernest Mabuza
Townships affected by Wednesday night's looting of foreign-owned spaza shops included Meadowlands, Zola, Emdeni, Moletsane, White City, Zondi and Rockville.
Townships affected by Wednesday night's looting of foreign-owned spaza shops included Meadowlands, Zola, Emdeni, Moletsane, White City, Zondi and Rockville.
Image: Thulani Mbele

There is a small - yet highly vocal - minority in South Africa with extreme anti-foreigner sentiment.

This is according to research conducted by Citizen Surveys, which was commenting following a spate of attacks on foreign nationals in some parts of Soweto on Wednesday night.

It drew its insights from its South African Citizens Survey (SACS), which is a monthly tracking study based on face-to-face interviews with a nationally representative sample of 3,900 respondents per quarter.

The survey covers a variety of topics which map attitudes and opinions in the country.

Reza Omar, strategic research director at Citizen Surveys, said that between March 2017 and February 2018, these xenophobic sentiments ranged between 3% and 6% of the adult population, influenced by the level of unemployment and anti-immigrant political agitation.

Omar said when viewed in relation to the most important problems facing South Africa in the second quarter of 2019, the SACS data indicated that xenophobia emerged as one of the least important problems, at number 13, with only 6% of South Africans (2.3 million people) viewing it as a priority issue.

When referring to individuals classified to have anti-immigrant sentiment, these individuals expressed strong adverse views to African immigrants when prompted by a number of statements put to them during research.

These were:

  • We should allow foreigners from other countries to live in peace in South Africa;
  • Foreigners from other countries work hard and help build South Africa;
  • The army and police should be sent into the townships and rural areas to catch foreigners from other African countries; and
  • African foreigners should be put into detention camps and sent back to their own countries.

The South African Human Rights Commission meanwhile has condemned Wednesday night's looting of shops owned by foreign nationals.

"The commission calls on everyone to respect and uphold the rule of law and refrain from criminal actions, particularly when such acts are directed against vulnerable groups," the commission said.

The commission called for the state to address concerns by communities about the entry of undocumented migrants into South Africa and who then compete for limited resources such as business opportunities and employment.

"The commission thus calls on the state to address these concerns urgently as tensions, violence and the resultant looting directed against non-nationals we witnessed on Wednesday night will not be resolved," the commission said.


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