According to Human Rights Watch, the intolerance of migrants - partly provoked by competition for resources and the increasing numbers of migrants – particularly from Zimbabwe, have created a volatile situation in poor communities. This causes foreign nationals to become easy targets.

Let’s track back to the first xenophobic attack in May 2008 in Alexandra, Johannesburg, which we saw spread to all nine provinces across the country. These attacks resulted in the deaths of 62 people. The Human Rights Watch reports that 21 South Africans, 11 Mozambicans, five Zimbabweans and three Somalis lost their lives in these attacks and causing injury to thousands.

With the build-up of the 2010 Fifa World cup – two years before the rise of these Xenophobic attacks took place – foreign migrants and refugees were warned about coming to South Africa due to the xenophobic violence in the country.

Seven years later, on 11 April 2015, another spate of xenophobic attacks occurred mostly in Durban, KwaZulu Natal. These attacks were deemed the worst outbreak of xenophobic violence in years claiming the lives of five people, two being foreign nationals, three South African citizens and amongst those who were killed was a 14-year-old boy. South Africa’s Institute for Security Studies says the public violence monitor has recorded over 200 xenophobic attacks over the last eight years.

In recent xenophobic attacks, a several protestors felt foreign nationals are taking their jobs, especially when it comes to the spaza shop (an informal convenience store, mostly run from people’s homes) businesses across the country which has seen a shift in ownership.

According to Research Gate, ninety percent of the spaza shops are owned by Indians and Somalians, while South Africans own ten percent of them across the country.

These are the events that took place seven years ago in the East of Johannesburg regarding the ownership of spaza shops and the East of Durban regarding jobs:

In April 2015, spaza shops were looted and damaged allegedly by South African citizens. Their claims were that the foreign nationals who had built the shops, were taking their jobs and that they want them gone from the country. Take a look at some of the damage done to the shops.

These attacks did not end in Johannesburg, but spread to parts of KwaZulu Natal, resulting in the damaging and looting of local stores. This resulted in South African Nationals getting up and fighting to put an end to these attacks on foreign nations, as this also affected their daily lives and threatened their livelihoods. The protest against the xenophobic attacks in Durban, KwaZulu Natal resulted in thousands of South African's marching against the recent violence against foreigners.

In the past few years, the unemployment rate in the country has been fluctuating, which in turn has caused millions of qualified young, old and South Africans to compete for jobs to sustain their livelihoods.

Those who are unable to secure a job, have resorted to starting their own businesses, some continue to depend on the government in the form of grants, others have resorted to crime and while others point their fingers at foreign nationals for their reason of unemployment.

Impact on the people and the economy

The impact of xenophobia goes beyond the loss of lives and property, it also affects the economy of the country. South Africa is one of the largest economies in Africa, with a high potential for growth and development. However, xenophobic attacks have led to a decline in foreign investment, tourism, and trade.

Foreign nationals who are entrepreneurs and business owners contribute to the economy by creating jobs and generating income for the country. When they are attacked, their businesses are destroyed, and they are forced to leave, causing a ripple effect on the economy.

Furthermore, the negative perception of South Africa as a country that is hostile to foreigners, makes it less attractive for foreign investment and tourism, which could have been a significant source of revenue for the country.

Here are some voices on the ground:

Speaking to some South Africans, sharing their perspectives on xenophobia, these were done telephonically and face to face in some areas:

I have lived in South Africa for 10 years, and I have never felt so unsafe as a foreign national as I do now. The constant fear of being attacked, harassed, or killed because of where I come from is overwhelming. It’s not just the physical harm, but the psychological trauma that comes with it. I don’t feel like I belong here anymore.”

Tendai from Zimbabwe.

I am a South African citizen, and I feel ashamed of what is happening in our country. It’s not who we are as a nation. We are a country that fought against discrimination and apartheid, and now we are doing the same to our brothers and sisters from other countries. It’s not right.

Thabo from Johannesburg.

“As a business owner, I have seen the impact of xenophobic attacks on my fellow foreign nationals. It’s heart breaking to see their businesses destroyed and their lives shattered. We need to find a way to coexist peacefully and build a better future for all.” Aisha from Somalia.

“I think xenophobia is caused by illegal immigration. Our government’s nonchalance on immigration laws further aggravated by unemployed and how illegal foreigners don’t mind being underpaid and stuff. Plus the crime they commit and get away with it cause they’re not accounted for. Their burden on our already strained services like Sassa (via corruption) and healthcare. Their lack of economic contribution via tax. All of these things are a major contribution to the state of our country and the government doesn’t care. South African’s are hungry, unemployed, while there ppl “stealing” food out of their mouths.” Princess from South Africa.

Speaking to a number of foreign nationals living in South Africa, this is how they feel xenophobia can be dealt with:

- Government intervention. This is important because if the government cannot solve issues of citizens, then they will try to find ways to deal with it themselves, hence the rise of xenophobic attacks.

- Dialogue and efforts at social cohesion. There needs to be ways to strengthen relationships and solidarity amongst members of communities. There are better ways to solve these issues than being violent and killing each other.

- Education and awareness campaigns. To address the misconceptions and stereotypes that lead to xenophobia, and to promote cultural understanding and tolerance.

These are just a few suggestions but the solution is not simple, and will require a multifaceted approach that involves government, civil society, and the public at large.

Xenophobia in South Africa is a complex issue that requires a comprehensive and coordinated effort to address. Government and non-profit organisations and Non-governmental organisations have in recent years tried to come up with ways to combat xenophobic attacks in the country.

NGO, Sonke Gender Justice has been actively involved in efforts to stem the xenophobic violence and its aftermath in South Africa.

In order to achieve this, Sonke has been:

· Conducting community mobilisation and community education, including community imbizos, lekgotlas, bosberaads and community workshops on xenophobia, immigrant and refugee rights, and gender equality leading to the formation of community action teams.

· Developing educational materials such as posters, stickers and digital stories addressing xenophobia, human rights and gender equality to be disseminated in areas affected by or at risk of xenophobic violence.

· Carrying out media advocacy, including: radio interviews, the development and dissemination of public service announcements and the placement of digital stories educating community members about the lives of immigrant and refugee women and men and the contribution made to South African society by immigrants and refugees.

In April 2015, the Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor, launched a "We are Africa" mobile application (app) to support government's anti-xenophobia campaign.

According to government, the mobile app, which is freely downloadable, primarily enables users to access two key functions, which are as follows:

1. An Internet-enabled device to pledge support for the "We are Africa" campaign. The app automatically captures the geographic location of the person, which allows an analysis of spatially-based sentiments and patterns, thereby supporting decision-making. The app gives users the option of providing their demographic details, such as gender, age group, race, etc., without revealing their identity.

2. The user can report any incident or potential incident of violence or incitement. This is near real time and enables relevant authorities such as the SAPS or the Metro Police to respond swiftly to prevent the incident from occurring, or to enforce the law where it has already occurred.

By creating an environment where all people feel safe and valued, South Africa can harness the potential of its diverse population and build a prosperous and inclusive society that benefits everyone. A South Africa free from xenophobic violence is possible, and it is up to all of us to make it a reality.

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Written by Nyakallo Tefu