The Phenomenon of Xenophobia in South Africa'

2 minute read

In 2008, a wave of riots swept through the country, killing over 60 people and causing widepsread panic as tensions ran high into 2010’s World Cup. Many statements have been made by South African government officials saying that those perpetuating xenophobia would be dealt with harshly. Attacks on foreign nationals have continued since then, even with newsworthy instances since my arrival in Cape Town in August. But xenophobia doesn’t just exist here in the form of physical violence, but through the attitudes of many people, both of which often affect some of our clients here at the Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town.

Recently, Human Rights Watch (HRW) published its 2014 World Report. In it, they mention the deteriorating human rights situation in the country, which is being perpetuated by residents and the South African Police Service (SAPS) alike. Human Rights Watch’s Southern Africa director, Tiseke Kasambala, even noted that the government has failed to adequately protect migrants from xenophobic attacks; in most cases, the government denied they were even xenophobic at all, simply just crimes that happened to be committed against a foreigner. Shopkeepers, car guards, farmworkers; Somalia, DRC, Zimbabwe, Rwanda; it’s happened before and will unfortunately happen again. Discrimination doesn’t always come in the most forceful of ways though: it can be small biases or poor service, and even I have been told that I need to “go back to my country.”

Scalabrini Centre does our best to assist our clients who have been victims of crime. We help clients open cases with SAPS, obtain the proper materials, and take statements. Unfortunately it is often a slow, arduous and ineffective process due to South Africa’s high crime rate and case overloads. We are also part of the Hate Crimes Working Group, led by the University of South Africa (UNISA), which aims to create, advocate and reform Hate Crime legislation and policy. In addition, Scalabrini runs a community outreach program, Unite as One, which is a school program that discusses issues like identity, xenophobia, and integration with students in Grades 9 and 10.

Marijke By

Marijke volunteered in South Africa with the help of a Christianson Fellowship, from the InterExchange Foundation.

U.S. Department of State-Designated J-1 Visa Sponsor
Alliance for International Exchange
The International Coalition for Global Education and Exchange
European-American Chamber of Commerce New York
Global Ties U.S.
International Au Pair Association
WYSE Travel Confederation